kesté, New York, New York
So I must be like – what – the six gazillionth blogger to check in on the subject of kesté pizzeria’s highly-debated crust?
Too thin? Too thick? Crispy? Soggy?
Does it have the right amount of elasticity?
Too much char? Not enough char?
Honestly, I have no idea what all the traffic has been about.
kesté makes a decent pie. But it’s certainly no second coming of Godot.
Both of the pizzas we tried offered a thin, center crust and a knobby, well-blistered rind. More chewy than crisp, more soggy (yes, yes, the center was a bit wet) than dry, they were good; not an ounce more, not an ounce less.
But what was fantastic, was kesté’s ripieno – or calzone ($16). Now THAT just might herald the second coming of Godot.
It’s filled with milky ricotta and fresh mozzarella. I might have to boycott kesté altogether if they ever dare offer it to me any other way.
Big enough for three people, two if you’re really hungry, my calzone arrived oozing milky ricotta out of its swollen belly. It’s sauced on the outside, almost by necessity, since the ricotta was so soft (unnaturally so – did they add mascarpone, panna as a friend suggested?). And, like the pizzas, it sported a puffy, gently charred rim.
If there’s one thing that could improve the ripieno, it would be a more even pavement of filling. I understand that they’re trying to go for that nonchalantly rustic and “authentic” effect. I say: save the nonchalantly rustic and “authentic” effect for when I’m really in Italy sitting by a wood-fired oven overlooking a vineyard, or some comparably idyllic stretch of Mediterranea, with some Federica Ridolfi look-alike as a pizzaiola. Then I’ll be able to overlook the fact that all of the meat is bunched up in a wad at the fold, leaving the majority of the pie a patchy field of crust and stretchy mozzarella.
There’s nothing wrong with crust and stretchy mozzarella, but sitting in a crowded, narrow, and busy pizzeria in the West Village, the wad of salame seemed like a stupidly simple problem to avoid.
But really, that was only a very minor problem, since the meat wasn’t the highlight or focus of this lovely creature. Again, it was the ricotta. And besides, I could easily surf whatever amount of meat I desired through the ricotta to any other part of the pie.
You need to order the ripieno.
If you’re still interested in hearing about the pizza, here goes:
Neither of my friends took my cue about ordering the “Margherita” – an essential standard of measurement for a first-time visitor in a pizzeria.
My friend Clark did, however, order the “Ortolana,” a new addition to the menu that I wanted to try ($15). Tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, mushroom, artichoke, extra virgin olive oil. It was all very good. My favorite part was actually the strands of scallions scattered across the top that had gone crispy, essentially fried in the olive oil drizzed over the top of the pie.
Lois ordered the namesake pizza the “Kesté” ($19). Topped with tomato sauce, buffalo mozzerella, peppery baby arugula, silky ribbons of prosciutto di Parma, and chip flakes of Pecorino gran cru, it’s what I call a “salad pizza.” I like my pizzas hot, hot, hot, and somehow, the tuft of cool baby greens and prosciutto seems to temper the experience for me. There was a bit too much going on.
Lukewarm. That’s how I felt about it.
So, too, with the “Toscana” salad we shared ($9). Everything in it was very fresh, especially the walnuts and the olive oil. But it needed salt. All I got was a mouthful of sour.
Having been warned that kesté is usually a cluster on the weekends, we arrived early for lunch. To our surprise, we waltzed into the half-empty restaurant without so much as a pause at the door.
Friends have observed how easy it would be for the owners to improve the wine list here. I wasn’t really paying attention. For one thing, it was noon on a Saturday. And for another, I was completely engrossed in my ripieno.
271 Bleecker Street
New York, New York 10014