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Keste Pizza on Bleecker

Excellent new spot on Bleecker Street near Cornelia. It's across the street from John's Pizza, but thousands of miles away in pizza terms.

Supposedly authentic Neapolitan pizza, wood burning oven, pizzaiola from Italy. All i know is the dough reminded me of Da Michele in Naples (fairly soft with a nice little char), but the sauce at Keste was much tastier and the cheese was excellent. This was not gloppy New York "cheese", this was just the right amount of really good mozzarella.

We only tried the Margherita, but there was a lot of "interesting" stuff coming out as well...Lardo pizza, Pizza with prosciutto on top, etc. So despite the Neapolitan credentials, oven and dough, the range of toppings is more New York than Naples. And a far cry from Da Michele's two choices (Margherita or marinara).

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  1. Walked by Friday to take a look and ended up being treated to a delicious Mahgarita pizza and other tasty samples, GREAT!!!

    1. How does it compare to Una Pizza Napoletana?

      Do you know the business hours?

      2 Replies
      1. re: fdb

        I stopped in yesterday, but did not eat. For the time being, they are opening at 4 p.m., but they are planning to start serving lunch in the not-too-distant future.

        1. re: fdb

          If you are one of the people who understand UPN,then i'm sure you'll get this.It is similar in size but with a more extensive menu.It's Neapolitan with no apologies.it's made to be eaten with a knife and fork,and NOT by the slice,so don't complain when everything slides off if you try.There are over twenty or so varieties available and all seem very well priced ($9 Marinara,$12 Margherita if I remember rght ?) I believe it's BYO at the moment as they are waiting on a beer & wine licence.I think the opening times are from midday to about 11pm?

        2. Thanks for the review. I am excited to give it a try.

          Da Michele notwithstanding, many if not most pizzerias in Naples offer a wide variety of pies like Keste does. Things like lardo pizzas (and other varieties) probably have a much longer history in Naples than the relatively recent margherita (tomato, mozz, basil) style.

          Probably the real indicator of an authentic Naples pie is the softer, puffer crust that you describe. Alhough (until recently at least) New Yorkers have tended to prefer a crispier crust of the "New York style" pizza.

          1. Went last night. Spectacular. Spoke to Roberto and his partner, both natives of Napoli. Was afraid they'd be the "Vera Pizza" police but they just really cared about the ingredients and the service. They had sampled virtually every pizzeria I could name including NY icons like Patsy's, Grimaldi's, DiFara's and John's across the street. They also obviously thought about their suppliers-not only the imported ingredients but locally they count DiPalo's and Biellese among their sources. I've always joked that if I could ever get Anthony at Una Pizza Napoletana to put sausage on his pizza, I'd never go anywhere else for authentic Neopolitan style pizza. Well, Keste beat him to the punch (and get their sausage across the street at Faicco's, no less)! A welcome addition to my beloved Bleecker Street. Bravo and grazie mille.

            4 Replies
            1. re: guttergourmet

              Funny. I went last night, too. I also liked it a lot, and would be happy to return. The service was quite professional given that they've been open for only a week. No kinks.

              Very good Neapolitan-style pizza and, yes, I like the fact that one can order more than just four simple variations. We tried the Margherita Ripena and the Prosciutto e Arugula. Both wee very tasty. Excellent crust.

              However, I still have to give the nod to Una Pizzeria Napoletana. Despite the shortage of choices, still a better pie. Has the salt ratio just right on the crust and a slightly more nuanced tomato flavor (for those pies with tomato).

              1. re: Jorel

                Is this a sit-down place or takeout only?

                1. re: AndyDoodle

                  Sit-down. Though, of course, they do take-out, too,

                  1. re: AndyDoodle

                    This kind of pizza is soft ,quite moist and should ideally be consumed the minute it comes out of the oven.It will only suffer by being boxed and delayed.From my experience in Italy people generally don't wait untill everyone is served before starting to eat Pizza,such is the desire to consume it at it's best !

              2. Thanks for the news, can't wait to try it! There seems to be many new places for Neapolitan pizza these days but my current favorite for the real thing is La Pizza Fresca (www.lapizzafresca.com) and Una is pretty good too. LPF has a nicer environment with wines while UPN is more no frills. I'll bring a bottle and try Keste though. Thanks!

                6 Replies
                1. re: mrfreeze

                  I'm surprised by all the praises. While the toppings and sauce may be good, the dough is far from perfect. Toppings and sauce should not make the dough wet and somewhat doughy. I was very disappointed. Granted, this is not the crispier dough like Lucali's and Co. (two of my fav's), it compares to the sort of chewier softer dough like Franny's and UPN. I like both kinds, but the softer, chewy dough must be airy and not doughy when wet. When perfect dough of this softer type gets wet, it may be a little soggy, but still delicious. This is the perfection that the folks at Franny's, my third fav., is able to achieve.
                  I've also had Neopolitan pizza in Arizona (Pizzaria Bianco-- btw, the one and only best hands down!! MUST try if you are out there. Chris Bianco is actually from the Bronx) and in Miami at Fratelli's (true Neopolitans). I'll just say that I have made excuses to go back to Phoenix just to have Chris' pizza! YES, believe it or not, NY doesn't have the best. It's a big deal for me to say that, but Chris' pizza is really that great...it's perfect.
                  As for Keste, for those who love the place, you can rest assure that you will have one less party to wait behind in line. It was a waste of my appetite, and for you foodies, you know how much that stinks.
                  I don't doubt that Roberto is an expert in Neopolitan pizza making, but he probably needs to get to know his oven.

                  1. re: wileen

                    I basically agree with you wileen. Although Naples-style pizza is supposed to be a bit soft/soggy in the middle, I also found that the pizza at Keste', was a bit too doughy. Perhaps a bit undercooked. And the dough not quite salty enough. I think he's on the right track and I would still say the pizza is already pretty good. So we'll see how he progresses in the next few months.

                    I have yet to try Co. or Motorino, so I am not sure how they compare. But I certainly don't think Keste' has matched UPN yet. I am hoping for the best because I think UPN is just way too expensive.

                    In any event, it is nice that we now have all these choices and different styles of pizza and pizza places in NYC

                    1. re: boccalupo

                      Thanks for the note boccalupo.
                      I was very disappointed with the pizza at keste. ...
                      Even if you eat a few bits quickly-- which you shouldn't have to do with great pizza-- I think it is a waste of a good appetite.

                      You must take the trip to Brooklyn one of these days and try Motorino. It is superb and absolutely worth the trip!! It is open for lunch and dinner.
                      Of course, Co. is right here in the city as well.

                      1. re: wileen

                        I agree with wileen. I had Keste a few days ago, and I thought it was horrible. Really soggy crust, horrid toppings. One of the poorer pizzas I've ever eaten.

                    2. re: wileen

                      Interesting,in that however highly you rate it,Chris Bianco would likely be the first to tell you his pizza is not Neapolitan.I wonder how many people had thier fist encounter with a UPN pizza and are using that as thier benchmark as Neapolitan,never having set foot in Napoli?
                      Fratelli's is one of the better pizza chains out there,but sometimes suffers due to staff turnover i'm told?Frannys,Co and Lucali all may also be in your top tier but they are not Neapolitan either.Having said that,there are variations of pizza in Naples ( yes ...beyond da Michele and Brandi ) But in fairness we should be comparing apples to apples and understanding the product,even if we dislike it .Regarding your comment "(true Neopolitans)" - what does that offer? Manhattan probably has more Mexicans producing and serving Italian food that Italians do. Motorino has a Belgian chef using a prefab oven.Tonda has a Neapolitan ?Luzzo has Mexican manning a coal oven.Having a vowel on the end of your surname may make you sound Italian,but doesn't mean squat and is certainly no indication as to the quality or authenticity of the food on your plate.

                  2. I had dinner at Keste last night, and generally concur with those who said the dough was undersalted. But I found the texture just right. The pizza has a half-life of about 5 minutes, and if you eat quickly, it's excellent. Once it cools and the crust gets soggy, it's just ok. I tried three varieties. The margherita was the best; the cheese is indeed very good. The regina margherita, with bufala mozzarella and grape tomatoes, was pretty good also, but the grape tomatoes made it a bit too sweet, and the cheese was so mild its flavor got lost. The funghi was fine, but with plain white mushrooms, a little too blah for me.

                    The service is lightning fast. Every request was met with "Immediately!" from our server, and he wasn't kidding. They really like to keep it moving in there, and pressed us to order quickly and pay quickly. But they were very nice about it, and there were about a million people waiting, so I don't fault the place for giving us a bit of the bum's rush.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: small h

                      We got the bum's rush too...at 6 PM with the place empty! That, and my waiter only talking to my date, annoyed me enough not to enjoy the good pizza. I won't be back. I feel they have a "Euro-snobbery" attitude. I will stick to Patsy's of East Harlem where the pizza is better and crispier.

                      1. re: efn

                        Huh. I concur on the Euro-snobbery. And I think you're right to be pissed about it, especially when the place is empty. I gave Keste a pass due to the Saturday night crowd, but I would be much less forgiving in the situation you describe.

                    2. Went back and tried the pizza del re. Creamy fresh mozzarella, proscuitto, mushrooms, truffle spread, olive oil. Spot on. The service was also excellent.

                      1. My pizza here was excellent. I had the Prosciutto Cotto (cooked imported ham, tomato, mozzarella, basil) and was satisfied with the results. Definitely something I would expect from an italian family that has the balls to open shop across the street from John's.

                        1. We went for lunch last week, and enjoyed the Keste pizza (mozzerella, tomato sauce, prosciutto, arugula) very much.

                          We've been to Italy (including Naples) multiple times, and thought Keste compared quite favorably with what we've had over there. It will be even better when they get their license and are able to serve wine.

                          1. If you want to start a food argument with a New Yorker,bring up the subject of Pizza.

                            Simply put, I have now been to Keste twice-IMHO,it rocks in every category!!

                            1. I had dinner at Keste tonight with my girlfriend. We arrived a bit before 8 o'clock and waited about 5 minutes for a table. We liked the pizza very much. We ordered:

                              Insalata fresca (baby arugula, sliced grape tomatoes, parmigiano reggiano, a small slice of good Italian bread): This had a somewhat excessive amount of balsamic dressing; nice fresh ingredients, though.

                              One pizza margherita: Tthe basil was unevenly distributed, so that some slices had little or none and one had a lot; the tomato sauce was excellent, naturally sweet from the tomatoes, the overall taste was satisfying, and the crust was excellent Neapolitan-style crust.

                              One pizza del papa (butternut squash cream, imported smoked mozzarella, and slices of unpickled artichoke): It took a few seconds for me to get used to how the smokiness suffused the whole pizza, but I've always liked the taste of smoked mozzarella. I've never had a pizza like this one. It was delicious. Same comments about the crust as before - nicely thin, with good wood-smokiness.

                              With an iced tea for me, the total bill came to $42 and change before tip. Service was friendly. I highly recommend this place but hope it never becomes too busy for me to go to! Thanks to everyone who's recommended it. For those of you who don't like it - more for me! By the way, I've never been to Una Pizza Napoletana and don't have any great urge to go to a place where I understand I'll pay considerably more for less food.

                              27 Replies
                              1. re: Pan

                                all I have to say is read Frank Bruni's (of NY Times) article about pizza 7/8.
                                he clearly knows what he is talking about.
                                as I noted back in april, the pizza at Keste was very disappointing to say the very least.
                                it's a shame that people give it any praise. if not for the location and unworthy hype about a foreign oven that apparently does nothing special for the pies that emerge soggy from it, Keste would be just another bad pizza place.
                                of course, I have not been back, but based on Frank's review it is just as bad if not worse than the pizzas I tried when I was there in april.
                                finally, a knowledgeable food critic to give justice. Many thanks Frank!

                                1. re: wileen

                                  wileen, I had the same experience you and Frank Bruni had.

                                  1. re: Slob

                                    Yeah Bruni slammed Keste,but all it did was convince me that he and others do not understand what Neapolitan pizza is.
                                    As a professional critic I would expect better.Gael Green also disliked the pizza at Keste but at least she understood the product and confirmed that it was the real deal.The fact that he put Motorino ahead of UPN and UPN ahead of others clearly tells me he doesn't know as much as he thinks he knows about this style of pizza.I believe it's Faico's sausage that Bruni disliked so much at Keste?
                                    I know for a fact that the quality of the ingredients they procure are some of the best available.I firmly believe Bruni has an axe to grind and an agenda.Even though he was kind to Co. in this round,I don't think Jim Lahey will be kissing his ass any time soon?Of course we all know that Brunis comments carry a lot of weight in this city (ask DiNiro !) but the public will be the people who vote with thier feet and wallets.Jumping on the bandwagon that Bruni let loose only adds to my feeling that some people are jealous and/or intimidated by Kestes obvious success.Time will tell?Bruni never gave a mention to Naples 28 funnily enough and yet found goodness in L'asso? I could find fault and truth in much of this article,but it is of no consequence.I regard Brunis comments equal to a Yelper with poppers.From my experience, at UPN I believe you'll be surrounded by mostly Americans, at Keste it is predominantly Italians.I think that says a lot.It's a bit like finding you local Burrito joint selling Huit La Coche.Most Americans will just not get it?

                                    1. re: xny556cip

                                      I've found the crowd mixed at Keste, but the presence of Napolitani there has been very evident.

                                      My complaint about Keste has nothing to do with their pizza. Instead, I find it very disturbing that they can't seem to make a decent salad. Their salads are overdressed, oversalted, and undermixed. It really isn't hard to make a decent salad, and it's a really good thing to have salad as part of a meal with pizza. However, their salads are so bad that I intend to avoid them from now on, and that's a real pity.

                                      1. re: Pan

                                        You are not the first to comment on the salad issue Pan.I actually am from the opposite opinion though and although I know i'm in the minority,I wouldn't have them on the menu.I support UPN in that stance and his dogmatic approach.As much as it irks others,I only go to a Pizzeria for Pizza.....O.K and a beer and hopefully great espresso.BTW who does do great salds ?I ask because i respect your opinion,and it's something I almost never order.

                                        1. re: xny556cip

                                          I often don't order salads (such as when I go to Chinese restaurants, which I do very often), but I like a good salad. 'inoteca on Rivington and Ludlow is one place that serves consistently good salads.

                                      2. re: xny556cip

                                        I am completely willing to admit that if Keste is the epitome of what Neopolitan pizza is supposed to be, then I HATE Neopolitan pizza. If Neopolitan pizza is supposed to be waterlogged and super soggy, then Neopolitan pizza is not my thing.

                                        And I hated the Faico sausage topping too. They might use the best ingredients and have incredible hype, but the sausage was absolutely tasteless and had a very weird consistency on the pizza. I don't know if that's a Faico issue or a Keste issue, but the sausage tasted like flavorless very finely ground turkey or some other tasteless meat.

                                        I have no axe to grind with Keste or Faico, as I know no one from either place. I just really disliked the product.

                                        P.S. I will also point out that I didn't "jump on the bandwagon" Bruni started. I made my initial comments about the pizza and the terrible sausage topping a couple months before Bruni's article.

                                        1. re: Slob

                                          Now we're getting somewhere: Keste makes a good version of a traditional Neapolitan pizza, which will always be "wetter" and "softer" than most people expect. There are acceptable ranges here, of course and always differences in execution, but there is in fact a model, and ether you like its template or you don't. I guess many don't, but to judge Keste's pizzas for not being something they were never intended to be...well, then you'll probably be, as they say in Naples, incazzato. That said, there are spins on the Neapolitan model that work better for American tastes--like Motorino's. It's also odd that no one's mentioned the very skillful and delicious versions at La Pizza Fresca, which predate the current frenzy.

                                          1. re: Slob

                                            Faicco's sausages are anything but Jimmy Dean-like, as so many other CHs will attest...most likely, they were using something else for a while, or they have switched...

                                            1. re: penthouse pup

                                              The sausage I had was straight tasteless. Worst sausage ever on a pizza. Worse than frozen pizza sausage.

                                            2. re: Slob

                                              Keste's pizza is a quite authentic Neapolitan pizza. In Naples a crisp crust would not be acceptable. The softness at the center comes mostly from not draining the tomatoes. Yes, you probably would not like the pizza in Naples.

                                              And you are not the only one. Many Naples-influenced places in NYC have modified the Naples formula a bit (draining the tomatoes for one thing) for our tastes, making a pizza with a crisper crust, which we in NYC seem to prefer.

                                              Roman style round pizza is cracker thin and crisp. I recall that Ed Levine in his recent book about pizza expressed a preference for the Roman style over the Naples style on his visit to Italy.

                                              As for the sausage issue, I don't know. Faicco's sausage is supposed to be of excellent quality (assuming that is in fact what is being used). Perhaps it does not hold up as a pizza topping (too lean?). They may also be using a plain sweet sausage, which may not have the fennel flavor most of us are accustomed to. In any event, I am assuming that word of Bruni's comments must have reached Roberto at Keste, so we will see if any adjustments are made.

                                              Oddly, the best pizza I have tried at Keste was the (no cheese) marinara pizza. And overpriced that it may be, I think the filetti pizza at UPN still tops any pizza I've tried at Keste.

                                              1. re: boccalupo

                                                boccalupo, I don't mind a slightly soft center. In fact, I really liked UPN.

                                                What I don't like is a crust that is super soggy and lifeless like a wet rag, which is what I experienced at Keste. But, again, if Keste is more authentic than UPN, then I don't like truly authentic Neopolitan pie.

                                                As for the sausage, my main beef with it was that it was devoid of taste. The texture was terrible too, and it almost appeared boiled. No sear at all on it. And even less flavor. You might have called it, as I recall no fennel flavor (or any other flavor for that matter).

                                              2. re: Slob

                                                Yes, it's very true that you jumped on no bandwagon. I haven't tried their sausage, so I can't comment on that.

                                                1. re: Pan

                                                  Thanks for confirming that, Pan.

                                              3. re: xny556cip

                                                Actually, I really don't think that Bruni was only judging Neapolitan pizza. As I recall, he clarified that in the beginning of his article. He was careful to qualify the categories. But this is really not about Bruni.
                                                I'd like to be clear that those who love Keste and rate it the best Neapolitan style pizza may be right. I'm not a professional expert. However, I don't think that the public cares so much about judging who makes the real and best Neapolitan pizza. The public, non-professional pizza connoisseurs, like me, care about good taste, texture, etc. We don't care so much whether it taste like pizza from Italy. Perhaps people from Italy and folks like you who critique a certain type of food have reason to think Keste is "better" because it meets certain requirements of a particular type of pizza. Jim Lahey has never purported to make true Neapolitan pizza, nor does he care to. He makes pizza according to how he thinks great thin crust pizza should taste like and people love it. About your last comment-- it's on point. Italians may like a certain type of pizza and it's not necessarily what New Yorkers like...and I know that you are not implying that this makes them any better.
                                                By the way, have you ever been to Chris' Pizza Bianca in Phoenix?
                                                Chris' pizza is phenomenal and I would categorize Chris' pizza as real Neapolitan.
                                                (Chris is originally from the Bronx)

                                                1. re: wileen

                                                  "Chris' pizza is phenomenal and I would categorize Chris' pizza as real Neapolitan."

                                                  No Wileen I haven't been to this legendary place and to be honest I would never stand in line for the time it takes to try it.I know many people who have done (who's opinion I respect BTW) and they assure me it is not Neapolitan (as Chris has voiced himself )
                                                  I don't doubt that to you and legions of others that it is the best though.
                                                  I strongly disagree however about your comment :
                                                  "I don't think that the public cares so much about judging who makes the real and best Neapolitan pizza."

                                                  My reasoning is that as a food lover I am drawn to places that claim to represent a particular style of quisine, e.g Cacio Vino ,Po etc.(as opposed to generic Italian)
                                                  I happen to particularly enjoy Neapolitan pizza and have spent serious time in Naples eating it.Keste is the first restaurant that i've found in the Tri State region to truly represent it.
                                                  The claim of any restaurant / pizzeria to include Neapolitan in its name or food description indicates to me that they are going to provide food thet is truly representative of that area.Until I taste the food that is really the only indication of what i'm paying for and i get quite pissed off if and when when i'm misled.So it is very important .I'm certain others feel the same way about Chinese,Indian,food etc.that has serious regional differences and styles.Finally in Italy I know of many Italians who really dislike Neapolitan pizza and let me know it,prefering thier local regional style.

                                                  1. re: xny556cip

                                                    You make great points. It was a pleasure reading your post.

                                                    1. re: Pan

                                                      Thank's Pan and thank you for the heads up on Inoteca.I actually stopped in there when they first opened and the paint was still wet,but just for a coffee if i remember right?I was drwn by the ambience,but have yet to return.I'm with you on the critics comment.I usually prefer to see a place settle,find it's feet and go by recomendations from EG and friends as needed.

                                                      1. re: xny556cip

                                                        I don't even know how long ago 'inoteca on Rivington and Ludlow opened. It's definitely been open for several years, and that's the location I was talking about. I haven't been to the new location.

                                                    2. re: xny556cip

                                                      okay. I should have said neo-Neapolitan then.
                                                      Great! that confirms that I hate real Neapolitan style pizza.
                                                      Ditto what Slob said.

                                                      I have also been to Italy and didn't like the pizza there.

                                                      And yes, I stood in line 3 times for Chris' pizza in (the shade of) hot desert sun, and I long to go back just for the pizza! It was well worth it. ..of course, his wine bar next door helps the situation, at least for that last hour!

                                                      Finally, I must disagree with your comment. If you like real Neapolitan pizza, then of course you will want to search for the perfect true Neapolitan style in the City. But the necessary premise to that is that you like the taste, texture, etc. of real Neapolitan. At the end of the day, New Yorkers in general ARE judging what they love when they think of the perfect pie, whether you call it real Neapolitan, D.O.C., neo or american Neapolitan, thin crust, whatever-- it's about what you think makes it perfect...call it what you will. If the contest you're judging is the best real Neapolitan pizza, we are judging under different criteria. ..Also, the pizza places I like, eg. Co. never claimed that they make Neapolitan pizza.

                                                      Just to use your analogy, it's similar to "Asian fusion" -- some dishes may look like or resemble Chinese or Thai cuisine; but are truly not. In fact, these restaurants may even have an item on the menu that is "Thai," like "Thai curry". These restaurants don't purport to cook "real" Thai, so it's fine that the dish is not authentic.
                                                      We don't expect to get real Thai food at a Asian fusion restaurant that may even have a Thai name (knowing that it is a fusion restaurant), even if the dish looks and smells like Thai food.
                                                      I definitely do not expect to get real Neapolitan at Co.
                                                      But please don't misunderstand-- I respect that you like something different.

                                                      1. re: wileen

                                                        That's alright Wileen, I never expect to get anything resembling Neapolitan at Co.You are very right about judging criteria.It would apear that now you have a better understanding of what is important to me and how personally I don't particularly care for generic interpretations or "Fusion".

                                                        1. re: xny556cip

                                                          I'm glad we agree!
                                                          ..hey there is nothing wrong with feeling passionate about your fav pizza!

                                                    3. re: wileen

                                                      No, I've never been to Phoenix. I also don't necessarily like Neapolitan style best. It really depends how well it's done. I also can't claim that Keste's pizza is the best example of Neapolitan-style pizza in New York, because I have never been to such other Neapolitan-style places as Una Pizza Napoletano. All I can say is that I have liked it for x and y reasons and have a and b criticisms.

                                                      1. re: Pan

                                                        I think Motorino is great too.
                                                        You should take a trip to BK (if you're not already there), and try it!

                                                2. re: wileen

                                                  Apologies for those who have seen this before, but I don't let critics influence my views of restaurants I've already formed a personal opinion of, based on actually going there.

                                                  1. re: Pan

                                                    No apologies necessary.

                                                    I don't either; and in any event, that wasn't the point.