Day Two: Good afternoon, Kesté
A scant 2 hours after Slices Roulette, we arrived at Kesté Pizza & Vino, open for only 5 months, on Bleeker in the West Village. We were welcomed by the co-owner and chef, Roberto Caporuscio, who started us off with a brief history of Neapolitan pizza and his philosophy behind his pizza. Of course, it is all about the crust. Well crust, simplicity, and freshness.
Kesté, meaning “this is it” in Italian, serves authentic Neapolitan pizza. In fact, if you want to get the best in Neapolitan pizza, this is IT. Roberto is President of APN (Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, which maintains strict member guidelines for ingredients, dough, and cooking). He’s like the Wizard of Oz of Neapolitan pizza.
Kesté was by far, leaps and bounds and kangaroo jumps, some of the best pizza we as a collective group have ever put in our mouths. We were served much more food than we ordered, and despite being stuffed to the gills, we kept eating because it was all so amazing. We started with a salad of mixed greens, walnuts, pears, with a simple dressing of lemon and olive oil. Then the pizzas started flying out.
Pizza, loose as a term compared to today’s pizza, was invented in Naples centuries ago. Tomatoes had been introduced to Italy then, but in pizza’s early days, people still thought they were poisonous. So, one of the first versions of pizza, was flatbread with lard and herbs. When we heard they served a lard pizza we were super excited to try it. Something that, by it’s description, did not exactly sound appetizing to many of us. I need a new word for amazing, really. The crust was at once charred and soft as a pillow, the lard was salty and crispy around the edges and the basil was a refreshing counterpart to the fatty saltiness. The Margherita was awesome, super simple and divine. The special of the day was a pizza with a truffle cream spread. That piece of pizza, it wasn’t food, there is something too utilitarian implied in using the word food. It was straight pleasure. We had many pizzas, all delicious, but the last pizza that really made a huge impression on me was a pizza that out of the oven was topped with arugula, prosciutto, and shaved percorino romano. If you live in New York, or can afford to drop everything and get on a plane, go here. Go here now.
And you know, in researching Kesté, I read a lot of bum reviews. We all know that people like to complain. It makes them sound smart. But most of the bad reviews were from people that I don’t think really know what Neapolitan pizza truly is. For those people, I have a story.
Nano, our general manager, and his brothers growing up were not allowed to say things like “eeewww, that’s weird,” or “Yuk! That’s gross.” They had to instead say, “That is not what I am used to.” And it very subtly changed their perspective, and left their minds open to eventually become used to the “weird” European food and such their parents were introducing them to. So, for those people who poo poo this pizza, are you really going to tell the President of Pizza that he doesn’t know what he’s doing? I challenge you, instead of trying to retro-fit this pizza to what you are accustomed to, look at it with fresh eyes and taste buds. The only way you would be disappointed is if you burn your tongue on an iron while getting ready. But you wouldn’t do that, I know you wouldn’t.