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Keste Pizza & Vino - 271 Bleecker St.


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Stopped in tonight around 7:15, still about 10 seats up for grabs. Place was full by 7:40 and by 8 there was a little line outside.

First impressions:

- Right now they are BYOB, at least half the people were taking advantage

- Each pizza is large, they say 10", definitely at least that big

- Slices (they slice your individual pie for you) were rather limp, when held by the crust the slice drooped down vertically

- The dough is chewy and elastic

- I would call this "good" char. As compared to say "Co." char, where larger spots get vaporized to a thin ribbon of carbon here and there, this is (to my taste) good char, very small spots of char all around adding a nice touch. Could even go a little stronger with the char.

- They do a nutella dessert pizza

At it's best this pizza could become light, pillowy and smoky, but we didn't quite get there tonight. At it's worst this could become wet and limp pizza, but we didn't quite get there either.

Definitely good potential, we expect to go back after a few 1000 more pizzas get churned out.

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We went after a few more thousand pizza were possibly turned out (the owner mentioned something like 350 pies being baked on Saturday).

Our party of four got to try at least 5 different pies, and I was mighty impressed - perhaps moreso than 1 or 2 others in our party - my wife, for instance, prefers the style of pizza turned out by Arturo's.

Since I've never been to Naples, I really can't comment on how this pizza compares to the true Neopolitan pie, but it's damn good. The crust is chewy and tasty; charred as sickchangeup mentioned above, but nice and pillowy at the edges...yes, it can be a bit soggy toward the middle, and that probably has something to do with the amount of olive oil it's annointed with.

The oven is cranked to about 1000 degrees F. The dough is made with fresh yeast on a daily basis.

The ingredients used on the pizzas were really stellar. There's fresh mozzarella from DiPalo's, mozzarella bufala imported from Naples, pecorino grand cru, lardo from Salumeria Biellese, and so on.

For now, the prices on the pizza range from $9 (lardo and pecorino, which was delicious) to $18 for the proscuitto di parma. Notably cheaper than the few other true Neopolitan places around town. Says they'll have the beer and wine license in a month or so; for now, it's quite a bargain, especially if you bring a pizza friendly wine - we had a nice Nero d'Avola that I picked up for about $15.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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A friend and I tried out Keste on Saturday at Lunch time. We had the Margarita (tomato, mozzarella, and basil) the Regina Margarita (grape tomatoes and Buffalo mozzarella), the Mast'nicola (percorino, lardo, and basil), and the capriciosa (tomato, artichoke, ham, mushroom, and mozzarella).

I thought it was good, but not great. The pizzas have a large pillowly crust along the outside and have good char. Surprisingly though, they are not all crispy-not even when they immediately come to the table. The pecorino and lardo pie had great flavor, mostly due to the pecorino and was the only pie that had a little bit of crunch at the edges. The tomato on the Margarita is very well seasoned. The Capriciosa was rather bland and the quality of the ingredients on this pie was unimpressive.

Overall I think it is worth a try, but not the moving experience I was hoping for.

Mike

The Dairy Show

Special Edition 3-In The Kitchen at Momofuku Milk Bar

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A friend and I tried out Keste on Saturday at Lunch time.  We had the Margarita (tomato, mozzarella, and basil) the Regina Margarita (grape tomatoes and Buffalo mozzarella), the Mast'nicola (percorino, lardo, and basil), and the capriciosa (tomato, artichoke, ham, mushroom, and mozzarella).

I thought it was good, but not great.  The pizzas have a large pillowly crust along the outside and have good char.  Surprisingly though, they are not all crispy-not even when they immediately come to the table.  The pecorino and lardo pie had great flavor, mostly due to the pecorino and was the only pie that had a little bit of crunch at the edges.  The tomato on the Margarita is very well seasoned.  The Capriciosa was rather bland and the quality of the ingredients on this pie was unimpressive.   

Overall I think it is worth a try, but not the moving experience I was hoping for.

That's what's great about the pizza quest. I wonder how long the oven had been fired for at lunch, and what kind of overall effect that might have had on your pies.

And I don't know if a "crispy" crust as you're describing it above is what this pizzaiola is striving for.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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That's what's great about the pizza quest.  I wonder how long the oven had been fired for at lunch, and what kind of overall effect that might have had on your pies.

And I don't know if a "crispy" crust as you're describing it above is what this pizzaiola is striving for.

That's a good question. They told me the temperature of the oven was 950 F, but I don't know how long it was on for.

Maybe you are right about what kind of crust they are going for.

Mike

The Dairy Show

Special Edition 3-In The Kitchen at Momofuku Milk Bar

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I've been to Keste twice now, and as a fan of Roberto's when he was at A Mano, I'm thrilled that he's back to manning the oven. Both visits were for dinner around 9pm, so the fire had certainly been cranking for a while. Both times, there were plenty of Italian-speaking diners, and much to my (pleasant) surprise, almost everyone seemed to have the "OMG" experience when they started eating. This is the real deal...that's for sure.

On our first visit, I had the special pizza, which had oyster mushrooms and prosciutto. We also had one of the flatbreads with pesto. Terrific, but thanks to eating too much dough, I couldn't finish my pizza (until lunch the next day)! The second time, I went with the Salsiccia, which had Italian sausage, fresh mozz, tomatoes, and EVOO. Needless to say, I polished it off. :raz: The panna cotta is amazing, and worth sharing.

The bottom line for me is that I think the dough/crust Roberto makes is just fantastic. The rest of the ingredients are stunning, too, from the arugula and basil to the balsamic he uses. But my new favorite food? Burrata. He gets it a few days a week (usually Thurs/Fri/Sat, iirc), and it was a swoon-worthy experience for me and my friend. Next time I might just ask for a naked pizza dough to have with the burrata. Just thinking about it makes me want to run back in to the city today! :laugh: Like everything else about the place (food AND decor), it is, imo, simple perfection.

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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  • 4 weeks later...

Well, 6 weeks later ( maybe 10+k pizzas later?), and Keste was phenomenal yesterday for lunch. We started with the Battilocchio Del Giorno, which today comprised of a paste like mixture of robiola cheese and green olives, smeared over a rectangular piece of dough with perhaps a couple of pieces of pepper or halved cherry tomatoes here and there. The difference in the taste, temperature and consistency of the dough was immediately remarkable - the dough was nothing less than delicious in fact. It definitely tasted saltier, and the char was a little stronger as I had hoped after our last visit, about as close to smoky, light and pillowy a dough as I have tasted. The topping was almost an afterthought as I ate it.

For mains I had the Pizza Del Re (probably so called cause it's the priciest they sell), which was honestly a revelation. My wife had the funghi, which while still better than our previous visit, didn't stand a chance against the Del Re, as she eagerly accepted my offer to swap a slice. Funnily enough, an older couple sat next to us towards the end of our meal, and both husband and wife waved off menus and went Del Re. And while it was absolutely some of the best pizza I've had, by the end of my third slice I was thankful I had switched out a slice cause it was so rich that I had reached a point of marginal return very quickly. So while I'd recommend ordering it, and we will for certain order it next time, I am equally as certain that we'll try a different 2nd pizza that is less rich to go with it.

Anyways, to my taste, this past visit put Keste as far and away the best pizza I've had in the city. Even the pizza we took home (we only each got through 3 slices, the starter really isn't necessary unless you want take homes) was delicious eaten room temperature for dinner that night. The pizzaiolo was in the kitchen, here's hoping I didn't just catch the peak of variance (definite possibility), and that it's getting better and better.

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How does a Keste pizza compare -- stylistically, leaving preferences aside -- to one from Una Pizza Napoletana?

Not leaving preferences aside, which do you think is better?

I have a mild obsession with pizza napoletana, and Keste is looking like a must on my upcoming trip. Wondering if I should also re-visit UPN. For comparison's sake, of course. :wink:

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How does a Keste pizza compare -- stylistically, leaving preferences aside -- to one from Una Pizza Napoletana?

Not leaving preferences aside, which do you think is better?

I have a mild obsession with pizza napoletana, and Keste is looking like a must on my upcoming trip.  Wondering if I should also re-visit UPN.  For comparison's sake, of course.  :wink:

A few weeks ago, my wife and I did a comparison between the two.... It started as a joke - about a month ago we went to Keste for the first time and we were very impressed.... a couple weeks later, we went to UPN.... at the time we were blown away by UPN - we thought it was on another level than Keste (not slighting Keste which is excellent).... so midway through our meal at UPN, we joked about going to Keste immediately following and have a margarita taste test.... so the more we joked about it, the more we liked the idea....

Our results: We thought the crust at UPN definitely had a more complex, almost sourdough like flavor, and was overall tastier than Keste... But, it's also almost twice the price, and, as of a few weeks ago, you could bring your own wine to Keste with no corkage fee... We decided that we enjoyed the UPN margarita pizza better than the Keste version, hands down.... I also enjoyed my filetti very much at UNP... but we also decided that we will still go to Keste because it's such a good value, and comparison aside, makes an excellent pizza. I think comparing the two is sort of like comparing diamonds - sure some are nicer than others, but at the end of the day, they're still both diamonds... and the prices - our meal at Keste with a toscana salad ($8), margarita ($12), salsiccia pizza ($18) and a bottle of sparkling water ($4) was $42 plus tax/tip... a bottle of Dolcetto we brought from home - probably about $15-18... so total about $70.... UPN (for two pizzas ($21 each), bottle of wine ($39) and a bottle of sparkling water ($8)) was about $100, cash only.

I don't know if I answered your question tupac.... All in all, to me UPN is all about the ingredients - awesome dough, cheese, tomatoes, and that's basically it... Keste's dough is good, but not as complex, the tomatoes are good (but seemed a bit sweet to me) and cheese is good... but all in all, thought UPN was a higher quality pie... but Keste has much more variety, plus they have salads and interesting looking appetizers... not to mention the corkage deal...

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I went there on Monday and was told that they are no longer BYOB. Like a number of other places, they were warned that it would put their liquor license in jeopardy. We'd already opened the wine at home, and brought glasses, so we just pulled them out and poured it for ourselves before we found that out, which no doubt made other diners jealous.

Burrata pizza, the batillochio (mozzarella, truffle spread, and allegedly porcini, although we couldn't find them), toscana salad and pizza del re were all terrific.

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I don't know if I answered your question tupac....

That definitely answered my question, Kenneth. Thanks.

I'd forgotten about the steep price tag at UPN. $21 for a pizza is pretty serious. Comparing to what you might pay in Naples, that price is downright depressing. The first time I went to UPN -- must've been maybe 2005 or 2006 -- I wasn't really blown away. But maybe it deserves a second chance.

Keste is all but definite at this point.

Hitting both on the same night sounds like a good plan to me.

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Our results:  We thought the crust at UPN definitely had a more complex, almost sourdough like flavor, and was overall tastier than Keste...    But, it's also almost twice the price, and, as of a few weeks ago, you could bring your own wine to Keste with no corkage fee...

There are some who might tell you that sourdough-like flavor has no place in pizza dough. In my comparing UPN to Keste (admittedly, not at the same time nor even in the same day), I think the ingredients that Keste is using to top its pies are just as high-quality as the ingredients being used at UPN. Without the attitude and at a more gently price point.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Our results:  We thought the crust at UPN definitely had a more complex, almost sourdough like flavor, and was overall tastier than Keste...    But, it's also almost twice the price, and, as of a few weeks ago, you could bring your own wine to Keste with no corkage fee...

There are some who might tell you that sourdough-like flavor has no place in pizza dough. In my comparing UPN to Keste (admittedly, not at the same time nor even in the same day), I think the ingredients that Keste is using to top its pies are just as high-quality as the ingredients being used at UPN. Without the attitude and at a more gently price point.

Well, there's definitely place for the argument that the sourdough quality doesn't belong in a pizza... with that being said, we thought it made for a more complex, interesting flavor - whether or not it "should" be there...

I'm not saying Keste's ingredients aren't first-rate... I was just saying that they were remarkably different to UPN - remarkably meaning noticeably - especially when you hvae them back to back.

I also didn't find the attitude that so many people complain about with UPN. In fact, we walked away saying how nice and pleasant everyone was. Nothing over the top, but the attitude never would have occurred to me if I hadn't heard about it prior to the visit. Keste's service and attitude is very nice also - maybe more so... the manager (owner?) is constantly walking around making sure everything is ok.. and chatting with patrons, especially the Italian ones...

In any case, I'm splitting hairs a bit - both make a fine pizza... my personal preference leans towards UPN... but overall, I would go back to Keste for the better atmosphere and pricing... hearing about the no byo is a little disappointing - especially since now there is no wine option whatsoever... I love corkage restaurants (even ones with their own wine list), but I don't know if I'd want to go to dinner with no option of having some wine. I may wait to go back there until they have their license...

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had dinner at Keste tonight with my girlfriend. We arrived a bit before 8 o'clock and waited about 5 minutes for a table. We liked the pizza very much. We ordered:

Insalata fresca (baby arugula, sliced grape tomatoes, parmigiano reggiano, a small slice of good Italian bread): This had a somewhat excessive amount of balsamic dressing; nice fresh ingredients, though.

One pizza margherita: Tthe basil was unevenly distributed, so that some slices had little or none and one had a lot; the tomato sauce was excellent, naturally sweet from the tomatoes, the overall taste was satisfying, and the crust was excellent Neapolitan-style crust.

One pizza del papa (butternut squash cream, imported smoked mozzarella, and slices of unpickled artichoke): It took a few seconds for me to get used to how the smokiness suffused the whole pizza, but I've always liked the taste of smoked mozzarella. I've never had a pizza like this one. It was delicious. Same comments about the crust as before - nicely thin, with good wood-smokiness.

With an iced tea for me, the total bill came to $42 and change before tip. Service was friendly. I highly recommend this place but hope it never becomes too busy for me to go to! Thanks to everyone who's recommended it. For those of you who don't like it - more for me! By the way, I've never been to Una Pizza Napoletana and don't have any great urge to go to a place where I understand I'll pay considerably more for less food.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Hi all --

Ok, just went to Keste tonight... Had the same pizzas that Pan did, the margherita and the smoked mozzarella & butternut squash cream one... While the flavors of both pizzas were quite good, to me the pies didn't have enough char, not enough color on the bottom of the pie... As a result the middles of the pies kind of fell apart. I thought the tomato flavor was fantastic on the margherita, but would have liked a little more basil -- there were basically two or three leaves of it on the whole thing. The smoked mozzarella pie had very complex flavor, but it was rich, so I'd advise sharing it in addition to another pizza...

I'll also say it was VERY noisy and we were basically pushed to get in and out. We got one of the last table at around 7:15, and it was packed with a line from then on... The food was delivered so promptly, and the waiters were right on us whisking plates away and bringing the check... Note that this just got a major write-up and positive review in Time Out, so I think it is likely to get considerably more mobbed from here on out...

But to be honest, I don't think I'd likely go back. Between the noise, and what to me was a somewhat underwhelming crust... I was certainly satisfied but not over the moon. Again, maybe I just don't appreciate the style as much as others, because I'd like my crust with a little more substance to it, rather than something that kind of melts away in your mouth...

Edited by Emily_R (log)
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We weren't rushed at all, but you're not the only one who's complained about that, so it does sound like that may be an issue. I'm just curious whether you usually like the crust of Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza. It does normally fall apart in the middle and is normally eaten with knife and fork. At Keste, I was actually surprised that it was reasonable to pick up the slices of pizza with my hands, because that's really not a thing to do in Naples. Agreed on the amount of basil in the Margherita.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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The current issue of Time Out NY (week of June 4th) has a listing of Best New Pizzas in NYC.

Keste comes in first. About the dough:

Whatever you put on it, from the classic Margherita toppings to butternut squash puree with smoked mozzarella, it’s as close to the platonic ideal as we’ve found.

Full article here.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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We weren't rushed at all, but you're not the only one who's complained about that, so it does sound like that may be an issue. I'm just curious whether you usually like the crust of Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza. It does normally fall apart in the middle and is normally eaten with knife and fork. At Keste, I was actually surprised that it was reasonable to pick up the slices of pizza with my hands, because that's really not a thing to do in Naples. Agreed on the amount of basil in the Margherita.

I certainly haven't been to Naples, and I guess I'm learning that apparently I don't like "true" Neapolitan style pizza... I like my crust thin, and I have loved wood-fired pizzas before, but I guess I like thin with a little bit more structure and char...

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I certainly haven't been to Naples, and I guess I'm learning that apparently I don't like "true" Neapolitan style pizza... I like my crust thin, and I have loved wood-fired pizzas before, but I guess I like thin with a little bit more structure and char...

And you're certainly not the only one. As Gael Greene wrote on her website after visiting Keste:

The middle is spongy. It’s wet. That last sprinkling with olive oil before serving is definitely a Naples touch. Now that I think of it, I didn’t love any of the pizzas we tried in Naples. I want my Neapolitan pizza crustier.

I happen to like this style. And I also like a more "NY" style and a more Roman style. Keste just happens to be doing the Naples thing really well.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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  • 4 weeks later...

My wife and I, along with a couple of friends, went to Keste on the night of the 4th. Once again, the style may not be for everyone; for instance, my wife likes Arturo's more.

The 4 of us shared 3 pizzas (the house sent over a complimentary starter of a rectangular pie, sparingly topped, in lieu of a "bread basket"). We had the classic Margherita, sausage and broccoli raab and a pizza marinara - the Keste version includes nothing but tomato, garlic, herbs and olive oil. All the pies, as a matter of fact, are dressed with olive oil before hitting the oven.

While I'm not a huge fan of the sausage/raab combo (I find it exudes too much liquid), to my taste this is some damn good pizza. Pizza Napoletana, to be sure. Not to everyone's liking, to be sure. But delicious, none the less. The soft, pillowy crust is full of flavor - both from its 90 second to 2 minute stay in the wood burning oven, as well as from proper salting...watching the pizzaiolo work, you can see just how wet the dough is.

And if you really must have a pizza that "folds," order the marinara or any of the other pies without fresh cheese. Then, the slices are easily portable, if that's an important element when judging a pizza.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Looks like Bruni really doesn't like Keste - in today's NY Times, he writes of Keste:

I got almost no pleasure from the soggy pies at Kesté — including one with sausage that could have come from a Jimmy Dean’s freezer package — though Kesté, too, introduced itself as many discerning cuts above a run-of-the-mill slice joint.

Truly divergent opinions on this one.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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