Monday, August 10, 2009
New York Magazine is one of the highlights of my week. Whether it's the crossword, the culture pages, the cover story, or even the approval matrix, this rather basic little magazine often occupies my mind for a decent amount of time. After a long day of work, I so often turn to my trustworthy NYMag well before turning on the tv, playing online, or cracking open a book. And, one of the highlights of each year is their Cheap Eats edition - featuring various restaurants as well as types of cuisine that are both top-rated and affordable (basically made for the Hungry Roach).
Well, there is no question - 2009 has been the year of the pizza - and Cheap Eats 2009 ate that right up with an entire feature devoted to the signature New York cuisine. When I saw that Keste had been listed as the #1 pizza of the year, I was first excited since I quickly recognized the name as a spot not far from home that I have walked by several times in the past few months. But, I was just as quickly disappointed as I realized that in my passings I had barely blinked at this tiny new pizza joint on Bleecker. Something about the oddly, brightly-lit interior had kept me walking and now I knew that it's new found publicity would make any stopover far from easy. Before I had even closed up my Cheap Eats edition, the lines had already formed outside of Keste.
After weeks of strolling past a packed sidewalk, and one failed attempt (my growling stomach could not endure the wait one night), I actually made it inside for a meal. And, in all honesty, they told us the wait would be 20 minutes and we were seated within 5 - we were in luck. It was a great start to the evening followed by a delicious fresca salad consisting of baby arugula, grape tomatoes, fresh parmigiano reggiano, and balsamic dressing. I had even forgotten about the bright lights above. However, the pizza had definitely been built up in my mind - and that is where my experience veers from my trustworthy NYMag. Had I allowed my curiosity to lead me into Keste a few months earlier, I have no doubt that I would have been nicely surprised by the extremely authentic Neapolitan pizzas streaming out of the oven - both in smell and taste. But, by the time I made it there, these pizzas were already larger than life - rated #1 in New York Magazine and the lines outside had more than fed the hype. In the end, it was just too late for me - too late to be blown away, except by true perfection.
Once I realized that Keste would not be perfection, I decided it really wasn't too late to enjoy another new pizza joint that serves very good little pies. We had the mini pizza appetizer which consisted of a blend of Italian cheeses and truffle spread - this changes each night and is actually a very nice small size. It was a great option instead of ordering two full pizzas. To try out a traditional pie, we ordered the pizza regina margherita - grape tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. Both pies were really very good and I will definitely head back either for take out or as crowds start to die down (although it doesn't appear that will be happening any time soon). I'm just not convinced that This Is It (the literal translation of Keste). But, go see for yourself - it is definitely worth the trip and the faux 20 minute wait. Now that I've taken Keste down more than a notch or two, you will probably love it - lucky you!
271 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):