Growing up on the Jersey side in the mid-70s, my fascination with New York City was focused 100% on Greenwich Village. And since my world back then revolved 100% around music, the heart of the Village for me was Bleecker Street—home of night clubs like The Bitter End and Kenny’s Castaways and several old and musty and dusty used record stores.
Today the Pizza Snob can unequivocally claim that this same street between 6th and 7th Avenues offers the best pizza in the City. Bleecker is bookended by two of the best classic slice places you can find anywhere: Bleecker Street and Joe’s. However, if coal-fired is your thing there’s John’s, and if you are looking for something unique, there’s the unique crunchy slice at Fiore’s. There’s also one other place that remained for me to “complete the street:” the Neapolitan pie at the renowned Kesté Pizza & Vino.
Kesté was started in 2009 by a serious “pizza maestro” named Roberto from pizza’s birthplace of Naples, Italy. He is also head of the APN – Association of Neapolitan Pizza Makers, an organization involved with both teaching and certifying pizza-makers. (There seems to be competing authorities since Nashville Neapolitan-makers Porta Via, are certified through something called the VPN.)
While I have repeatedly said that Neapolitan (or “soft” as my NYC food friend Mitch likes to call it) is not my top choice when it comes to pizza, I must say that over the years I have at least learned to appreciate a good one. And I must say that Kesté makes the best Neapolitan that the Snob has had outside of the Italian motherland, and that’s a pretty hefty compliment.
Arriving at Kesté early on what looked poised to be a busy Friday night, the place was already full when I got there. However, after a short wait, they seated the solo Snob at a small table for two at the end of the long narrow table area in front. The tiny crowded room was a little hot and stuffy for me, but I fared much better when I moved to the outside end of my table. Off to the rear was the open oven area where you could watcher the masters at work.
My Margherita pizza ($13.00) didn’t take long and came out looking perfect to say the least. The clumps of fluffy Mozzarella seemed to float on top of the savory-looking red tomato sauce and both were surrounded by a puffy and lightly charred end crust. The basil leaf in the center looked like a small bird.
Definitely quite soft, much to my liking it was not soupy in the middle from runny sauce and oil like these Neapolitans often get. I ripped my little pie into four small slices and dove in to what turned out to be a flavor extravaganza. This was not a crust to crunch, but one from which to enjoy each and every delightful chew.
The fresh ingredients produced a bright taste that made this delicious treat disappear fast. You usually don’t fold one of these soft pies, but that somehow managed to work for me. Wanting however to consume every tasty morsel, I did need to finish off some small tasty bits though with my fork.
Before I knew it, I was done. From my wait to paying the bill, I couldn’t have been there more than fifteen minutes. And when I left there was a mighty long wait to get inside. I also noted that there were at least six riders delivering Kesté pizzas on bicycles. This place really pushes the pizzas out.
To close the case on Kesté, while this is not the kind of pizza that I’m in business for, these guys at Kesté do exactly what they attempt to do, and they do it to perfection.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ***** Sets the Standard
Kesté Pizza & Vino
271 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014