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sickchangeup

Keste Pizza & Vino - 271 Bleecker St.

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Actually toppings heavy is never the way to go if your eating Neapolitan pizza........that is, unless you want a limp wet pizza.

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Well it just goes to show, it really may just come down to personal preferences. So far the reactions to the photos of the pizzas I ordered have been:

-you ordered wrong, those are lame pizzas

-those don't look like Roberto's pizzas

-those look amazing/great.

Ultimately I don't care so much about their appearance, but I will grant that the Margherita looked pretty good to me, "correct" and appealing. I just didn't love how it tasted. I actively disliked the lardo. (and seriously Sam and Stephen, that one looks good to you? with a quarter of it basically having no toppings at all?)

Interestingly the four of us at the table were in agreement about being underwhelmed, which doesn't always happen among us. Weird.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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As one of the other members of philadining's party I thought I'd chime in.

Yes, the pizzas in Exhibits B and C look good. But is anyone really defending the burnt slice on the right in Exhibit A? I mean, it's all char.

As far as whether we ordered properly, it seems fairly clear that a Neapolitan pizza joint should be able to competently execute a Margherita and Marinara.

The problems with the Margherita and Marinara aren't readily ascertainable by looking at the photos. They were indeed soggy in the middle. I'm familiar with the style, but that pies of this style are supposed to be wet (to a degree) in the middle does not excuse any degree of sogginess or underdoneness.

More importantly, though, the flavor either just wasn't there or was there too much (i.e., unbalanced). The crust didn't have very much flavor on any of the pies (could have used more salt, in particular). The tomato sauce was too sweet to our tastes. And on the lardo pizza the lardo was hardly detectable; the cheese was overwhelming. As philadining has said, where the other pies were just underwhelming, this was actually a bit unpleasant to eat.

I suspect it is just inconsistency. The difference in quality between the pies we had and those we've had at UPN or Motorino is not a subtle one; the pies at the latter places were on a different level.

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Also should have mentioned Zero Otto Nove as another place whose pizza far surpassed those that we had at Keste.

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Simply as follow-up to my earlier statement, I knew those pies weren't Roberto's because I've never seen that much char on a crust he has made. This is coming from a non-pizza expert, but from someone who knew the first time she had his pizza that it was something VERY special. I've never been disappointed by his technique, or the taste of the crust. Haven't had a neopolitan pizza anywhere else that matches it, either!


"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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In exhibit A their isn't a problem with the cooking, the problem is that the part on top that is "over charred"(which is arguable) was not topped correctly, and it is bare dough where as the rest of the top is covered with the lardo.

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In exhibit A  their isn't a problem with the cooking, the problem is that the part on top that is "over charred"(which is arguable) was not topped correctly, and it is bare dough where as the rest of the top is covered with the lardo.

If the rest of the top had been covered with lardo we would have been happier; in fact there was hardly any, the topping being mostly cheese. (I guess it's not all that easy to distinguish cheese from crust in the picture, but the interior of the pie is all cheese.)

Part of my problem with this pie is that I was expecting thin slices of (uncooked) lardo to be draped over the pie, instead of the burnt-to-a-crisp bits that we got. It seems like such a crime to do this to lardo.

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I'm not experienced with this sort of oven, but in baking pizzas of various kinds in various other kinds of ovens I've certainly noticed that sometimes no matter how evenly you apply the topping you get the occasional air bubble that expands and pushes the topping off part of the pie. When you're baking for 10+ minutes, you can often get in there early and pop the bubbles, and the surface will even out during the rest of the bake. But when you're baking at a zillion degrees for two minutes, that's probably tough. You can see a spot on our salame pie where that happened, though needless to say not nearly to the extent it happened with the lardo pie pictured above.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Yes, the pizzas in Exhibits B and C look good. But is anyone really defending the burnt slice on the right in Exhibit A? I mean, it's all char.

Let's be realistic here. It clearly is not all char. There are a few charred places, and a large proportion of well-browned (not the same as charred, which implies a slight burning).

. . . seriously Sam and Steven, that one looks good to you?  with a quarter of it basically having no toppings at all?. . .

I will allow that I probably wouldn't be happy if that was the only piece of that pizza I got. However, if that were "my pizza" I wouldn't have minded having it that way. Let us be reminded that Neapolitan style pizza is not designed to be split up into slices and distributed among several people, but eaten as a whole by a single person. I don't count it as a "fault" if one part of a pizza designed to be eaten as a complete whole isn't to someone's palate when eaten "out of context." It's taking a well-charred steak from the grill, slicing off the outside and eating only that part, and then complaining that it was a bad steak. It wasn't a bad steak, it's just that the part you got eaten all alone wasn't good. That's a salient difference, in my opinion.

The problems with the Margherita and Marinara aren't readily ascertainable by looking at the photos. They were indeed soggy in the middle. I'm familiar with the style, but that pies of this style are supposed to be wet (to a degree) in the middle does not excuse any degree of sogginess or underdoneness.

Now, if the dough was truly raw in the middle, that is a problem. But your remarks as to the "sogginess" and wetness of the pizza make me question how well you really understand the Neapolitan style rather than the typical American imitation of the Neapolitan style. There are plenty of pizzerias in America claiming to make "Neapolitan-style" pizza, but very few of them actually come close to making something that is true to the original (I should hasten to point out that the single-serving wood-oven pizzas found throughout most of Italy aren't all that smiliar to Neapolitan pizza either -- I'd call it more of a Roman-style dough in a Neapolitan-style shape). In America, a lack of proper wetness is definitely a major difference. There's a reason one eats pizza Napoletana with a knife and fork. It's because it's impossible to eat with the hands.

But don't take my word for it. A brief google search of Italian-language web sites for pizza Napoletana shows lots and lots of extremely wet pizza.

Part of my problem with this pie is that I was expecting thin slices of (uncooked) lardo to be draped over the pie, instead of the burnt-to-a-crisp bits that we got. It seems like such a crime to do this to lardo.

I probably would have expected this as well, but that doesn't mean it would be "correct" that way. Indeed, a lardo pizza is not anything I would call traditional in my experience. That said, most of the Italian-language examples I can find do seem to indicate that it's cooked on the pizza. I think we're probably guilty of being influenced by Batali's lardo pizza at Otto in forming the idea that that's the way it's "supposed to be." It's possible I wouldn't have liked it, but it's also possible I might have. Regardless, if you expect one thing and get something different, it can be disappointing for anyone.

As I said earlier, I think Keste pushes the envelope as to wetness of toppings and softness of the dough. Some people aren't going to like it. That's legitimate, I think. Anyplace that's an outlier isn't going to be loved by everyone.


--

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Now, if the dough was truly raw in the middle, that is a problem. But your remarks as to the "sogginess" and wetness of the pizza make me question how well you really understand the Neapolitan style rather than the typical American imitation of the Neapolitan style.

I'm not sure if I can pass a certification exam to prove that I understand true Neopolitan pizza sufficiently to have my opinion taken seriously, but the center of this one was unpleasant. As I've stated a few times in this thread, I've had several pies at UPN, and they all were pretty wet in the center, but not white and flabby and soggy. I think I was a little surprised about even that level of wetness the first time I encountered that style, but I quickly got over it. So I think I get the concept, I haven't been bothered by it at other places. At Keste, it bothered me/us.

But given all this talk about how these pizzas are "supposed" to be eaten, why does Keste cut them into slices?


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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But given all this talk about how these pizzas are "supposed" to be eaten, why does Keste cut them into slices?

For ease of sharing amongst parties greater than 1.

Right, which apparently you're not supposed to do, lest someone be stuck with the pizza equivalent of the charred ends of a steak. :smile:

Re: the lardo pizza, I wouldn't have minded that it wasn't what I expected had it been good.

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I will allow that I probably wouldn't be happy if that was the only piece of that pizza I got.  However, if that were "my pizza" I wouldn't have minded having it that way.  Let us be reminded that Neapolitan style pizza is not designed to be split up into slices and distributed among several people, but eaten as a whole by a single person.  I don't count it as a "fault" if one part of a pizza designed to be eaten as a complete whole isn't to someone's palate when eaten "out of context."  It's taking a well-charred steak from the grill, slicing off the outside and eating only that part, and then complaining that it was a bad steak.  It wasn't a bad steak, it's just that the part you got eaten all alone wasn't good.  That's a salient difference, in my opinion.

The problem with this analogy is that in the case of a steak, the outside charred portion is an intentional, highly-desired feature of the steak, which single bites of the steak are intended to incorporate. In the case of our lardo pizza, are you claiming that the condition of the piece on the right was intentional, that its sorry condition was providing some kind of intended counterpoint to the other, less burnt/browned/whatever and actually topped slices? This seems pretty hard to believe. It sounds like what you're saying is that since there were three other slices, and given that one person is supposed to eat the whole pie, that one of the slices wasn't so good isn't such a big deal. Which isn't really the point.

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. . . As I've stated a few times in this thread, I've had several pies at UPN, and they all were pretty wet in the center, but not white and flabby and soggy.  I think I was a little surprised about even that level of wetness the first time I encountered that style, but I quickly got over it. So I think I get the concept, I haven't been bothered by it at other places.  At Keste, it bothered me/us.

Count me among those who like UPN on the one hand, but don't exactly find it to be a reproduction of Da Michele on the other.

I wouldn't discount the possibility that this one was underdone in the middle, and if you didn't like it that's legitimate. I'm just saying that I've had pizza in Napoli that's been wet to the point of being soupy. I like it that way sometimes. But other people find it offputting. Hey, Alan Richman thinks Neapolitan pizza isn't very good, and while I vehemently disagree, he's no slouch.

But given all this talk about how these pizzas are "supposed" to be eaten, why does Keste cut them into slices?

I don't know. I actually wish they wouldn't. But I suppose it is a concession to the fact that Americans expect their pizza to be pre-cut into slices, and the reality that most people are sharing among several.

I will allow that I probably wouldn't be happy if that was the only piece of that pizza I got.  However, if that were "my pizza" I wouldn't have minded having it that way.  Let us be reminded that Neapolitan style pizza is not designed to be split up into slices and distributed among several people, but eaten as a whole by a single person.  I don't count it as a "fault" if one part of a pizza designed to be eaten as a complete whole isn't to someone's palate when eaten "out of context."  It's taking a well-charred steak from the grill, slicing off the outside and eating only that part, and then complaining that it was a bad steak.  It wasn't a bad steak, it's just that the part you got eaten all alone wasn't good.  That's a salient difference, in my opinion.

The problem with this analogy is that in the case of a steak, the outside charred portion is an intentional, highly-desired feature of the steak, which single bites of the steak are intended to incorporate. In the case of our lardo pizza, are you claiming that the condition of the piece on the right was intentional, that its sorry condition was providing some kind of intended counterpoint to the other, less burnt/browned/whatever and actually topped slices? This seems pretty hard to believe. It sounds like what you're saying is that since there were three other slices, and given that one person is supposed to eat the whole pie, that one of the slices wasn't so good isn't such a big deal. Which isn't really the point.

I'm saying it is an inherrent feature of this style of pizza that there will be some variability. It's a natural product, and sometimes parts of the pizza are going to bubble up and cook more than other parts. Take a look at this pizza from Una Pizza Napoletana. Fully one quarter of the cornicione is not only charred, but actually burnt -- and not in a few spots, either. It's 100% burnt, with no un-burnt crust peeking out. So what? It still looks like a good pizza. What about this one from UPN? For a place that's being held up as the pinacle of Neapolitan pizza by guys who don't like heavy char, there are an awaful lot of pictures out there of UPN pizzas with a heavily blackened cornicione. Maybe you'd just throw away the cornicione and call it good? That strikes me as not really what eating this style of pizza is supposed to be about.

But, more to the point, and as demonstrated by the UPN pizzas as well, this is the way it works out sometimes. You top the pizza evenly, you slide it into the oven, and sometimes it comes out the way it came out for you guys. That's the way it works. Indeed, most of the pizzas at a place like Keste seem to go in the oven with evenly-distributed toppings, and emerge with unevenly-distributed toppings due to the way the dough blew up in the oven. I count this as a good thing, not a bad thing.

So, no... I don't think it went in the oven with the idea that one slice of it would cook a lot more than the others. But I think it always goes in there with the possibility that that might happen, and it's not counted a failure if and when it does.

It's not clear to me, I should hasten to add, that I wouldn't like that part of the pizza. I might not like it if that were the only part of the pizza I had to eat, but looking at that pizza it doesn't look like something I would be disappointed to eat, and I don't think I'd have to choke down the well done part. But, to each his own...


--

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The char in the pictures from UPN does seem excessive. At least, though, it seems to be confined to the outer crust, and doesn't infiltrate the interior.

Look, I'm not saying that UPN is perfect, and I'm not saying that the condition of the particular slice that we've been talking about was even in the top 3 of the reasons why Keste disappointed us. It was merely one factor among many; when you added up the sogginess issue, the flavor deficit in the crust, the flavor deficit in the toppings (but excessive sweetness in the tomato sauce), the lack of balance in the lardo pie b/w the lardo and the cheese, and, yes, the condition of that slice in particular, the result was a disappointing experience.

Any one these issues in isolation may not have been a huge deal. For all I know the pies pictured from UPN were fantastic, even given the areas of burnt crust.

Like I said, I'm willing to chalk it up to inconsistency, or to this Roberto character's not manning the oven. I'm willing to concede that the place is capable of much better. But, likewise, it seems that people must concede, for example, that it really is possible for a Neapolitan pizza to be too soggy and underdone in the center, and moreover that it really is possible that Keste has produced pies with this problem, and so not all bad experiences are due to patrons not knowing what this style of pizza is supposed to be like. Similarly, it really is possible for pasta to be undercooked, even though many people may not know what proper al dente pasta should be like.

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Now, if the dough was truly raw in the middle, that is a problem. But your remarks as to the "sogginess" and wetness of the pizza make me question how well you really understand the Neapolitan style rather than the typical American imitation of the Neapolitan style.

I'm not sure if I can pass a certification exam to prove that I understand true Neopolitan pizza sufficiently to have my opinion taken seriously, but the center of this one was unpleasant. As I've stated a few times in this thread, I've had several pies at UPN, and they all were pretty wet in the center, but not white and flabby and soggy. I think I was a little surprised about even that level of wetness the first time I encountered that style, but I quickly got over it. So I think I get the concept, I haven't been bothered by it at other places. At Keste, it bothered me/us.

But given all this talk about how these pizzas are "supposed" to be eaten, why does Keste cut them into slices?

I may have previously mentioned in this thread that I was actually surprised that it was reasonable to pick up the slices of pizza in my hands. By way of contrast, and also in response to your "white and soggy" question:

The first time I had pizza in Napoli, I made the mistake of getting one for takeout from the Antica Pizzeria Porta d'Alba, right off the Piazza Dante. When I tried to eat it in Piazza Dante, the toppings kept sliding and I was nearly attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets that wanted to eat the pizza even more than I did. Whereupon, I got an object lesson that this great Neapolitan pizza, unlike New York pizza, is intended to be eaten in the pizzeria with knife and fork. And damn good pizza it is, too! As I remember, it had no char, even on the circumference, and was indeed "white and soggy" in the middle. And it isn't divided into slices but presented whole.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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My wife and I had lunch at Keste yesterday, so here's your out-of-town Oklahoma-country-hick perspective: we had the Regina Margherita (grape tomatoes and Buffalo mozzarella), and the Mast'nicola (percorino and lardo). The Margherita was terrific, the Pecorino was not. If allowed to sit for a while the Margherita was pretty wet and the crust started to get soaked, but fresh from the oven it was revelatory: really, really excellent. The Pec and Lardo, on the other hand, may as well have been a salt lick. And who cooks lardo? Maybe I'm missing something here, but this pizza seemed really bad to me.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Finally going here tomorrow.  Looks like I'm steering clear of the pecorino and lardo.  What are the can't miss pies?

I think the regina margherita is the best pie. It's not just cherry tomatoes like UPN's filetti. But it's both cherry tomatoes and the regular tomato puree. The little bit of acidity from the tomato skins makes this one tastier than the normal margherita for me.

I also think the ripieno (i.e. calzone) is truly wonderful.

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So I came, I waited, and waited, and finally ate. Wait on a Friday night shortly before 8 pm was between 45 minutes and one hour. Every twenty minutes or so Roberto would bring out some basic dough, seasoned with just a bit of salt and maybe some olive oil. This little bite set the tone for what was to come.

500 ml carafes of house wine for $20 were fine, but I actually didn't feel like the limited, and sort of expensive wine list added much to the experience or the restaurant's value proposition.

There were two specials, but I only heard one of them on account of the noise (moderate) and our server's incredibly thick Italian accent (borderline unintelligible). $22 for a white pie felt like a lot, so we passed. The other was some kind of tart with porcini spread, or something.

The four of us split a salad and four pizzas. The salad was fine, refreshing, but I wouldn't visit for salad alone. It had your standard bitter greens, shaved pear, and walnuts. Like tupac, my favorite pie was the regina margherita. To me it showed the best balance, and the cherry tomatoes definitely brought some acidity to counterbalance what we all felt was a rather sweet sauce. This pie really showcased the dough, soft and pillowy yet with just enough structure to not totally fall apart. As others have mentioned, however, the pies degrade quite quickly and get soggy. I ended up taking one bite out each of the quarters, to help mitigate this sogginess at its most vulnerable point, then worked my way around at a more leisurely pace.

My least favorite of the bunch was the Keste. The greens and ham were of a high-quality, but the whole thing felt overtopped to me and unintegrated. I really enjoyed the butternut squash pizza, but also felt some of the toppings were unnecessary. I could've gone either way with the artichokes, but the roasted peppers were distracting. My favorite part was creamy squash spread that took on savory pumpkin pie-like characteristics.

I know Bruni hated the sausage, but I couldn't find fault with the quality of the product. It's quite fatty and imbues the pie with a pervasive porkiness that almost bordered on being overwhelming. This, however, was again counteracted by the bitter rappini on the pie. Overall this was probably my second favorite pie, even if I felt the squash one more interesting.

As we were finishing our wine, and lingering perhaps just a bit for a restaurant this crowded, our waiter asked if he could have the table back. I kind of saw it coming and he was polite about it, so I wasn't really offended. Still, some people hate that kind of thing, so be warned. We walked out shortly shortly before 10 pm, and there was a horde of people still waiting for a table. Crowded place, that's for sure. Also, keep in the mind the tables that abut the kitchen get very, very hot. We were seated there first but thankfully another four-top opened up at the same time and so asked to move. I think after tax and tip we just shy of $40 each.


Edited by BryanZ (log)

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I'm not terribly fond of the Keste pizza either, and I think "unintegrated" is exactly the word for it. I much prefer the prosciutto & arugula pizza.

Still haven't tried the butternut.

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Finally made it to Keste for lunch yesterday. Our server was great and the pizzas came out very quickly. While I enjoyed the del re flavors very much, when I first attempted to separate a slice liquid literally gushed onto the plate - I'm guessing from the melted truffle spread? Soggy is almost an understatement. I enjoyed my friend's salsiccia e friarielli much more.

Overall I thought it was very good - but not great. Perhaps my expectations were too high based on all of the press. Unfortunately I also am comparing all crust to recent memories of Pizzeria Bianco and am afraid that the bar is set too high.

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Good thing I haven't had this thing written for over a month and our blog hasn't been down for 3 weeks. Oh, wait... I have, and it has. But here, finally, are my thoughts on Kesté. I'm going to try to do a post here on eG that is just a pictorial of essentially every item on the menu (I'm still a very frequent client), but for the time being, there are some pictures HERE...

I don’t watch the news. I read the newspaper only for the food section on Wednesdays. I’ve never followed the stock market, and the only economic crisis I’ve experienced lately was coming up a quarter short upon reaching into my pocket to pay for a macchiato the other day. I had to settle for an espresso.

I won’t settle when it comes to pizza. Some might call me a simpleton and others, a snob. But I will go to my grave believing that (a) pizza is one of the finest foods on this planet, and (b) 99% of what is sold under that name is garbage. This article, however, is not about bashing the majority (shoot me an e-mail if you want that, and trust me, you don’t). It’s about recognizing one of the finest pizzerias not just in New York or the US or outside of Italy, but in my opinion one of the best anywhere.

It is called Kesté and I have gone 6 times… in the past 10 days. That dedication has nothing to do with journalistic thoroughness. I knew after one visit that the pizzeria’s Neapolitan moniker was right — “this is it”. And I could write a book about the first bite.

It was from a pizza margherita. My knife brushed against a charred spot on the rim of the crust, knocking a fine black powder to either side before I sawed softly through an airy pocket. I cut my way an inch or two toward the center, collecting a molten glob of mozzarella and a partially singed basil leaf along the way. Coming back out to the edge, I hit a slick of tomato sauce as vibrant red as the fruits must have been on the vine. The dough in the middle was thin and pliable. Even with sparingly applied toppings, etiquette suggested a fork and gravity demanded it. I stabbed.

Immediately I burned my mouth — temporary agony that gave way to lasting pizza pleasure. My front teeth squeaked through the mozzarella, so milky that each time I chewed it seemed as much a warm beverage as cheese. The sauce — a smooth purée of raw tomatoes — was sweet and fresh tasting, with none of that caramelized tomato paste flavor that cooked sauces sometimes have. The basil was like a green potato chip, shattering with each bite into 1,000 pieces that tasted of carbon and chlorophyll. The crust was almost playful — I pulled and it tugged back, I pushed and it bounced. Together, it all made for a marvelous mouthful.

I glanced around the room, wanting to share my delight with someone, anyone. My eyes met those of Roberto Caporuscio, the pizzaiolo. He smiled. He knew.

His pizzas, he told us, bake for under 60 seconds. There were just 2 of us eating lunch that day, yet we ordered 3 more pizzas and a calzone. Either amused by our gluttony or wishing to test its limits, Mr. Caporuscio sent us 4 desserts as well.

I’m a stickler for tradition even in cultures to which I do not ostensibly belong, so the second pie had to be a marinara — just tomato, oregano, and garlic… basta. Both herb and allium spoke up without yelling, and the combination was somehow assertive and restrained at once. It was also delicious. And to be honest, I really did not want to share with Adam. Fairness at the table is overrated.

Next came the mast’nicola, a pie that pre-dates the introduction of tomatoes into the Italian pantry. Translucent slices of lardo melted and crisped in the oven heat. Pecorino romano and basil kept the pork fat company, lest it get lonely on the crust all by itself. There was no tomato sauce, no cheese, and no need for either. Minimally topped, the mast’nicola confirmed what the two previous pies both suggested — the crust at Kesté is just unbelievable.

We could — and probably should — have stopped there, but Adam had the sinister idea to order a calzone (a ripieno on the menu here). He was “just curious”, he said. A “little taste” was supposedly all he wanted. I was hesitant, but the sneaky bastard asked for it when I made a quick pit stop in the bathroom.

In retrospect, I support that decision 100%, because this particular calzone turned out to be simply the best I’ve ever had. Each bite uncovered new treasures. One time came a creamy mound of fresh ricotta. The next, strings of mozzarella stretched like telephone wires from my mouth to the plate. Short strips of peppery salame were buried here and there. And sometimes, the stars would align such that I got all of these ingredients at once. Magical moments, those. And, goodness, I haven’t even mentioned the smoky char on the crust or the sweet magma-like tomato sauce painted on the outside of the dough. But then I would just be taunting you. Suffice it to say, this thing was basically perfect.

Mr. Caporuscio approached our table and suggested we have another pie. I laughed awkwardly, hoping assuming he wasn’t serious. He smiled deviously and said “salsiccia e friarielli”. That’s the last thing I remember before the overdose.

Mozzarella martyrdom.

I wasn’t wild about the salsiccia e friarielli (sausage and a vegetable similar to broccoli rabe). The crust, as usual, was otherworldly. But smoked mozzarella is just not my thing, especially when it is this heavily smoked. And I don’t think I’ll be joining the facebook group for these toppings anytime soon, either. But it’s not you, Roberto, it’s me.

The desserts were fine. Tiramisù and tiramisù alla fragola (strawberry) were moist but not soggy. A panna cotta was firmer than I might’ve liked, but flavorful nonetheless. A slice of torta caprese — a dense, fudge-y chocolate and walnut cake spiked usually with strega but here with limoncello — nearly killed us. Actually, I’m pretty sure the four pizzas and a calzone killed us, but I’m just trying to put the blame elsewhere since those were so freaking wonderful. Anyway, thank you, Roberto, for the desserts… I think.

I’ve since tried nearly everything on the menu. The regina margherita, with grape tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, is a personal favorite. The acidity of the tomato skins in the sauce really makes it pop. A similar pie, made with burrata instead of mozzarella, has been available on some weekends. But that one, I must warn you, is a pie to be shared — either on the medical history forms you fill out before your next check-up, or preferably, with at least one other hungry dining companion. The prosciutto e rucola pizza is exceptional, and the eponymous Kesté (the same combination, but with tomato and pecorino subbed in for the mozzarella) is not too shabby either, though I still prefer the milkiness of the cheese on the former.

Even the appetizers are worth ordering . The rosette vegetariane are like classic New York garlic knots — only they taste of real olive oil, not margarine, and they come stuffed with roasted vegetables. And the battilocchio, a kind of elongated flatbread topped with different things every day, never fails. There’s also a pizza alla nutella available for dessert. I’d like to pretend that I’ve never had the appetite to try it, but of course, I have. And of course, it’s delicious.

I really liked Kesté right from the start. I loved it, actually. And I wanted to share it with the world. But the gastroenterological hurdles we encountered that first day I would not wish upon anyone. Forfeiture of dinner reservations, failure to budge from a prone position on the couch, and semi-permanent loss of appetite are all possible side effects. Please consider consulting your doctor if I invite you to lunch at Kesté. But please, please go.

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Well done. You're the first person to post here who liked the mast'nicola. I haven't had it yet, but will the next time I am at Keste.


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