Monday, July 6, 2015

Kesté Pizza & Vino - "that was it" and it was outstanding

Kesté Pizza &Vino
           271 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014
                                   (212) 243-1500

Kesté - in Italian Neapolitan dialect literally translates to "this is it". To me that translated into what every Italian does when they cook you dinner, put their heart and soul into the meal and then present it to you as if saying "this is it" or "this is everything". That is definitely the feeling we had at Kesté.

I was in Manhattan for a medical emergency that my daughter had experienced while there for a ballet training program. I had a horrible week and my uncle Vince, owner of Seattle's  Pizzeria Pulcinella (Seattle's premier Neapolitan wood fire pizza restaurant), called me and said - when Madison gets out of the hospital, I want to treat you two to dinner at my friend Roberto's place in West Village. I welcomed a treat after the stressful week, so he arranged reservations the upcoming weekend. 

There was a line out the door and it was pouring rain. I told the waiter we had 7pm reservations, and was told politely that they didn't take reservations. I apologized and said "I must have misunderstood my uncle Vince..." and the manager threw up his hands, smiled and in his thick Italian accent  "ahhhhh you are Mariangela! We have been expecting you! I will get you to your table now!" We were taken to a table in the center of the small busy restaurant, where all the waiters rushing around (who spoke fluent Italian to each other)  greeted us as we were seated. 

They took my wine order and we started with the Caprese, after seeing they made their own mozzarella in house. It arrived in a ball with fresh tomatoes sliced around it and aromatic basil leaves. They served it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the side and offered freshly ground pepper. The homemade mozzarella was soft, fresh and light, melting in your mouth, not too strong of a taste,  very well balanced. Perfect way to start the meal.

I must say, as we ate, though it was a BUSY and bustling restaurant, being a people watcher, it was fun to sit back and watch the staff.  Every member of the wait staff and management spoke fluent Italian.  I pride myself in understanding most Italian (though never speaking enough to be fluent) and was enjoying the banter and family feeling as they yelled to each other while working. It made me feel as though I was at a family dinner, and I loved it.

Next up were our pizza's. My daughter ordered the Salame pizza and I ordered the house special, The Kesté. Being a picky teenager, my daughter was a bit worried about the spice level of the house made salame, but was pleasantly surprised. It was flavorful but not overpowering - the salame was lovely and aromatic, sliced thin and cooked till just crisp enough in the oven, and the pizza had just the right amount of sauce and cheese, and finally topped with more fragrant basil.
As a half Italian who's mother has been making homemade pizza her whole life and a pizza restaurant in the family, my daughter is picky in regards to sauce and crust, both which got her thumbs up approval, verbally and in the amount she consumed.

Now, there is reason I ordered the house special, other than the fact that the ingredients were mouth watering and I am ALWAYS enticed by the tease of an imported Buffalo Mozzarella.  I like to try the house special at all pizza restaurants I visit. Growing up with Seattle's Vince's Restaurant and Pizzeria in my family - I was in LOVE with their house "Special". To me it says to the customer "This is what we believe in and trust enough to put our name on it, and that when all else fails, this you will love". Its the standard, a way to judge the establishment and their product.  

The Kesté : Tomato Sauce, imported buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto di parma, arugula, gran cru, extra virgin olive oil.  Again - I was enticed mostly by the buffalo mozzarella, but after my first bite, in love with the entire thing.  The balance of the fresh greens that seemed to cleanse your palate for each bite - with the rich mozzarella, the gran cru and salty prosciutto was a VIP party in my mouth. I almost had a When Harry Met Sally moment however restrained myself.

This pizza was the perfect representation of what Roberto Caporuscio has created in an establishment. I am proud to be not only 100% Italian but my family is from the same region as Roberto, Napoli. So I appreciated not only the feel and the dialect shared, but also the essential authenticity of the Neapolitan wood fire pizza. The technique is very boutique popular right now, so every time one opens, I am a little weary, knowing that my standards are high, and most don't pass my critiques.

At the end of our meal, we were contently full, and had some to take home as well. In true Italian style, was asked if I wanted any espresso after my meal, to which I quickly welcomed. 

Served and brewed perfectly, it was a smooth after dinner treat, as we were both too full for dessert - though the REPUTATION of the Nutella, Berry and Ricotta stuffed pizza was SO enticing and is my reason to want to return.

Please visit Kesté when in Manhattan next. Go for the amazing food and go for a taste of what it is like to be in a real Neapolitan restaurant in the heart of New York city.

***** 5 Stars easily

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