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Feb 22, 2010 09:33 AM

Best of the "nouveau" pizza places- Keste, Co., Motorino, etc.?

The best pizza threads have definitely been discussed ad-naseum on the board. Everyone has their own opinion. I usually tend to try a bunch of the same type of restaurant in a row to get a handle on which is the best. Obviously, I have been to just about every top steakhouse in the city to get a handle on who truly is the best. Right now, I am currently embarking on an Italian "kick" which had "kicked off" with my latest meal at Convivo (review is posted). Another culinary journey I would like to embark on includes pizza.

I have lived in NYC my entire life (albeit it a rather short one) and have never tried Lombardi's, Grimaldi's, Totonno's, John's, etc. Why you ask? Well, I do like pizza. But I can't honestly say I love it. And being 100 percent Italian, I eat it at home every Friday night homemade by mom who does a pretty darn good job. There are just other things that appeal to me more...namely steak, sit-down Italian, French, American, you get the point. I am more of a sit-down, 3-4 course meal kind of dude rather than grab a pie and dig in. Because those are a lot harder to get for me than a pizza. But every once in awhile I do get that deep craving for a great pizza. Of all the "classics" the only one I have been to is Di Fara's, which to this day I declare as the best pizza I have ever eaten. I see the latest reviews of Lombardi's saying that is is a tourist trap and has seriously gone down hill. Nonetheless, I still would love to sample it for myself because everyone has their own opinion and often I find that you are missing out if you just go off of someone else's suggestion. First I would like to sample some of the "nouveau" places that have opened up and seem to be all the rage these days.

But that brings me to my question... for you pizza lovers and afficionados I turn to you and ask which is the best of the new pizzerias that have opened like wildfire in Manhattan. Is it Keste, Co., Motorino, or something else? I plan on trying all eventually for a fair comparison but wanted to open this up for debate so I can decide where to go first. NYMag ranked the 20 top pizzas and this is what they said about these....

Regarding Keste from NYMag- Never in this town have oozy blobs of melted buffalo mozzarella and brightly flavored San Marzano tomatoes frolicked in such ecstatic harmony.

Regarding Co.- It’s supple and a bit bready, in a good way, and sturdy enough for inspired combos like the Ham and Cheese (a caraway-seeded mélange of Pecorino, Gruyère, and buffalo mozzarella draped with prosciutto), or our current favorite, the Stracciatella, a hot and cold, sweet and salty, raw and cooked union of chunky tomato, creamy cheese, and peppery Greenmarket arugula.

Motorino- His tomatoes are bright, his buffalo mozzarella sweet, and his Margherita DOC a thing of beauty. The crust exhibits a range of appealing textures, from crisp and chewy to light and airy.

Now if those descriptions don't make your mouth water then I do not know what does. So which would it be out of these? Will any stand up to Di Fara's? Or was Di Fara's such a revelation because I have not tried the other "vaunted" pizzerias in our city? I know the styles are different, they are using different ovens and preparations. Either way I am excited about my latest adventure and cannot wait to get it under way.

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  1. Trying to revive this thread as I am shocked I have not gotten any responses. Please opine hounds!!

    10 Replies
    1. re: steakrules85

      I'm a Motorino girl myself and everyday I crave the special proscuitto pie.

      1. re: steakrules85

        Was there a question in there Steakrules?

        1. re: boccalupo

          I'm THINKING steak wants to know what others think: Motorino? Keste? CO? etc..Correct?

          1. re: babbabooey

            Babbabooey has it. I want to know what the best of these places are. I clearly outlined that in the title and post.

            1. re: steakrules85

              I''m pulling your leg. It was a lot to wade through.

              My list:

              1) Motorino
              2) Keste
              3) Co.

              The three are different enough that you really need to try all three to see which you like the most.

              Motorino does the best job with their topping combinations. Crust a bit more cooked and crisp than Keste and they are less generous with the cheese. The service is a bit clueless about the food they are serving. The food and pizza deserve better. And they served me a $10 glass of prosecco in a stemless glass. OK I am nitpicking. The pizza is awesome.

              Keste wins on their plain margherita and marinara. Plus the mostly Italian staff gives it a bit more authentic old-world flair. But I think many of their special pizzas miss the mark.

              Co. has a very different crust, the pizzas are rather small and the flavors don't really jump out at me.

              I'd personally rank Roberta's in Brooklyn over Co., but they are quite different styles of pizza. Roberta's pizza is similar to(but not quite as good as) Motorino's, but has more non-pizza selections if you want a wider array of food choices.

              1. re: boccalupo

                Haha I figured you were. Thanks for you opinions. To help the others with their responses I should include that I do like a lot of cheese on my pizza and a crispy bottom crust is important. The margherita for me is what would really give the best indication of who does the best pizza because this is most traditional.

                Also, I am not a fan of places just throwing a bunch of crap on a pizza and calling it art or something. If the pizza has more than 3 toppings on it and toppings that you would not normally put on a pizza it probably isn't good.

                1. re: steakrules85

                  Then you'll probably prefer the crust of the margherita at Motorino and the amount of cheese on Keste's version.

                  Not sure what Motorino would say if you ask for extra cheese on your margherita. Or what Keste' would say if you asked for the pizza a bit more charred.

                  Usually Motoring keeps their speciality pies pretty minimalst. 2 or 3 toppings at most.

                  1. re: steakrules85

                    A lot of cheese and margherita pizza are usually mutually exclusive. And none of these places have a crispy bottom crust.

                    It sounds like you prefer NY style slices rather than the types pizza sold at Motorino, Co. and Keste. For what its worth, Motorino is my favorite. The crust has the best flavor in my opinion. I'm usually a margherita only guy but the brussel sprout and pancetta pizza at Motorino is outstanding

                    1. re: ESNY

                      Maybe Steakrules wold like Lucali better than these nouveau Naples style pizza places? Crisp crust and lots of good quality cheese. Although the crust's flavor is not in the league of Keste' or Moto. Think of it as DiFara with a nicer ambiance.

                    2. re: steakrules85

                      Neapolitan margherita doesn't have a lot of cheese, especially if it's mozzarella di bufala. With fior di latte, excess moisture is less of a problem, but it's still used sparingly. The cheese, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil need to be in correct proportion, and Motorino usually gets it just right. Keste is more inconsistent in my experience. I also think Motorino's crust is a step above the others.

                      If you like a lot of cheese, true Neapolitan pies might not be to your liking. They are very different from Di Fara and the coal oven NYC style pizzas (Patsy's East Harlem, Totonno's Coney Island, Grimaldi's) in terms of size, crust, cooking time, ingredients etc.

          2. > a lot of cheese on my pizza and a crispy bottom crust is important

            What ESNY and hcbk0702 said.

            I don't think any of the nouveau places would be your bag.

            A lot are Naples-inspired which is often MINIMALIST regarding amount of cheese and sauce, and the crust is often a little soggy. A Di Fara pie has a lot more cheese and oil and stuff going on.

            1. You want delicious pizza? Go to Keste on a Thursday or Friday night, they have burrata then. It's so fresh and moist and delicious and they pile it on the pizza and it's SO GOOD!!!! Its the best cheese on the best crust I've had in the city (not counting Brooklyn-DiFara's changed my life). The wait isn't too bad at Keste but if there is a wait, they bring you samples! Doesn't get better than that.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Jess321

                That sounds awesome and I would be going on a Friday night. They actually put the burrata on the pizza? Is this a special Jesss?

                1. re: steakrules85

                  Yeah! It's the special pizza of the day when they have it. They get it shipped in from Italy (I'm pretty sure that's what they said) every Thursday, and when it runs out, it's gone. But I was at Keste last Friday night and everyone in my party ordered the burratta pizza and they didn't run out. It was $22 for the pizza, which is pricier than their others, but if they have it, GET IT! Their regular marg pizza is great but seriously this was unbelievable. My friends who had never had burratta or Keste before all fell in love that night.

                  1. re: Jess321

                    So what is it just a burrata and tomato pie?

                    1. re: steakrules85

                      Actually it's a white pie, no sauce. I'm pretty sure it was just olive oil, burratta, and I think some basil leaves. It was out of this world fantastic though. The quality of the cheese stands out and really doesn't need anything else to make it shine. I'm a fan of Keste's crust, too, which is pillowy and chewy yet crisp at the same time, so for me it doesn't get much better.

                      1. re: Jess321

                        Sounds awesome. I will definitely try Keste but judging from the pics it looks like they really skimp on the mozzarella which is a huge bummer for me. Hopefully my fears are nothing, but I would hate to eat just a pie with tomato sauce and crust and a tiny nibble of mozzarella.

                        Also judging from the pics it looks like their pizzas are on the small side. For 3 people what is the recommended amount of food to order. Would it be 1 pie per person? Or is that too much?

                        1. re: steakrules85

                          I just found a cell phone picture of the pizza that I took but no clue how to upload it, but it did also have some (REALLY fresh) grape tomatoes on top also. It depends on your appetite but I'd say if you get a pizza you prob won't have room to eat other things. I shared a pizza and a salad with someone and it worked out well, people that ordered a pizza either didn't finish theirs or finished it but were stuffed (without ordering other things). Leftovers are yummy from there, though, so if you're heading home after dinner I'd say just go for it and get a pie each and whatever else sounds good to you.

                          1. re: steakrules85

                            Naples-style pizzas are individual size. Keste's are pretty big and most people won't need anything else to fill up.

                            If you like burrata on pizza, Motorino also does one with burrata, broccolini, sausage fresh chilies, garlic which is quite good.

                            I find some of Keste' ""special of the day" pies to be a bit exhorbitant at over $20. I think Motorino's top out around $17.

                            1. re: steakrules85

                              As I said above, that's the Naples style. Mozzarella di bufala (or fior di latte) is applied sparingly and there are areas of the pie that aren't covered by cheese. Mozzarella di bufala has a relatively high moisture content, especially compared to the standard (and IMO lower-grade) low-moisture mozzarella used by most NYC pizza joints, so the crust can become soggy if it's applied too heavily. It is also a much pricier ingredient, as it has to be shipped in from Campania.

                              As for size, they are usually 10-12 inches in diameter (35 cm is the maximum allowed diameter). If you have a large appetite, it would be possible to eat 1.5 or even 2 pies, so I would order some extra food.

                              1. re: hcbk0702

                                Una Pizza used to also have a California source for bufala.

                                There is also a place that makes bufala it in Vermont, but it is not nearly as good as the Campania bufala.

                                I haven't tasted the California bufala by itself.

                                I find Keste's pizzas a bit more substantial than Motorino and much more so than Co. There really is not much else on Keste's menu worth having. So I'd probably go for the appetizer pizza log ("battilocchio") if you have a large appetite. Motorino (esp. Bklyn) and Co. have some very good non-pizza choices as appetizers.

                    1. re: daffyduck

                      I think after studying the menus and reading many reviews, looking at pics that I am down to Keste and Lombardi's (yes I know it isn't one of the "nouveau" places but I want to try it). Which would you select? Would Keste allow you to ask for extra cheese?

                      1. re: steakrules85

                        Lombardi's is mediocre, that shouldn't be a choice.

                        And like I said above, if you want a lot of cheese, none of the Neapolitan places are going to work. If you add extra mozzerlla di bufala, all you're going to get is a wet, soggy mess, especially in the center of the pie. If you especially liked Di Fara, Lucali is the closest in style.

                        1. re: steakrules85

                          keste just had a pizzaiola in from naples do a cameo- pies were darn good

                          1. re: steakrules85

                            I went to Keste last night and wasn't really that impressed (have been to Di Fara, Motorino EV, Franny's, Patsy's (multiple incl. East Harlem), John's (Bleecker and Midtown), Totonno's (multiple incl. Coney Island), Lombardi's, Fornino, Veloce, Grimaldi's, Co., Artichoke, used to go to UPN a lot, too). Keste did not rise to the top of that list. Not sure if the pizzaiola in from Naples made my pie or not.

                            The dough is a bit dense and too heavy, IMO. I like Motorino or Franny's much more. Burrata pie (the special) with cherry tomatoes was nice, though. Topping quality was good. But we literally ate an appetizer and 2 slices of each, ended up taking the rest of the pies home.

                            But overall, the dough was just way too dense. It kind of felt a little doughy and undercooked. And the height of the pizza itself was a little low IMO. I wanted something more airy, and with more fire/wood taste.

                            It wasn't terrible but it seemed a bit over-hyped to me and with all of the other pizzerias in town, I won't be rushing back.

                            1. re: kathryn

                              I must admit kathryn's negative review has me a bit wary since I do value her opinions greatly. It is unfortunate that you didn't love it, but perhaps it was just a bad night. Was it crowded?

                              1. re: steakrules85

                                from what ive read these are top notch places. i think its going to just come down to personal taste. kind of like choosing between le bernadin, lugers, and per se. your favorite one will depend on if u like seafood, steak or french.
                                i haven't tried keste or co. but i liked motorino. motorino's pizza are really crispy (which i like). i found it better than a place called nick's in forest hills near where i use to live which is suppose to have one of the best pizzas.
                                I think itl probably come down to which u prefer breadier or crispier pizza? I personally like ny style pizza better than neopolitan so i like places like Rosa's in Queens and bleecker st pizza better than motorino.

                                1. re: daffyduck

                                  I don't think your comparison Le Bernardin/Lugers/Per Se makes any sense. Keste, Motorino, and Co. all serve pizza. And pizza of a similar enough style that you can compare the two, purely on pie. And there is definitely such a thing as bad pizza: burnt crust, sugary sauce, rubbery cheese, or undercooked crust, etc.

                                  I love breadier pizza (square at Artichoke, Mozza in LA) as well as crispier pizza (Franny's, Totonno's Coney Island) and lighter, airy pizza (Patsy's East Harlem, Motorino).

                                  1. re: kathryn

                                    my comparison was extreme but i dont think steakrules will get bad pizza from keste, motorino, or co, not that i tried all 3 places. i just thought that at this point the best place would just be whatever he likes best breadier, crisper, cheesier, meatier sauce, etc.

                                2. re: steakrules85

                                  Got there after 8pm, there was a bunch of people waiting outside. Wait for 2 people was 40 minutes. Not too bad, but there's a really small foyer to wait inside, so most people end up waiting outside.

                                  1. re: steakrules85

                                    It makes sense that you value her opinions. I, too, enjoy her posts and agree with most of what she writes about. However, you have your own tastebuds and I would hate for you to miss out on what could potentially be your new favorite pizza place just because one person didn't love it. I wouldn't recommend something unless myself AND multiple dining companions agreed that it was excellent. I think it's worth it to at least give it one try (preferably on a Thurs/Fri so you can try the friends are STILL drooling over it and keep bringing it up, asking when we are going back!). It's true, you may not love the crust style but hey why not give it a try?

                                    1. re: Jess321

                                      yeah i do too. kathyrns never steered me wrong, i would go to a place kathyrn thought was good even if it got 1's from zagat or 1 star from yelp. but yeah u do have your own taste buds. i really liked the goose liver ravioli kathyrn recommended for babbo (got extra bread just to finish off the sauce) but my dad hated it. oh well more brown butter balsamic for me =]

                                      1. re: daffyduck

                                        I will definitely go. Just trying to decide on where to go first.

                            2. Motorino makes a surprisingly pleasing pizza that just works. It hits so many good flavorful notes, that you'll enjoy it even if it doesn't hit your ideal pizza qualities. It's hard to deny that they make a really great pizza. The cheese is gooey and runny enough that it feels like it covers, and the crust has enough char, and chew that you're not going to miss the crunch. It's a great balance. I suggest the Soppresetta, and if convenient, the Brooklyn location which is slightly cheaper, and has a larger menu.

                              A couple strange things. their pizza is very light, almost airy. I don't know if others have had this sensation there, but I didn't leave feeling as if I had just ate an entire pizza. Part of me appreciated that, but it was also a tiny bit disturbing. I'm not entirely certain they're using high end ingredients either, but the taste will fool you. Often times the higher end mozzarella will get clumpy as it cools, rather than retain melt as Motorino's does. I also watched them walk in with canned tomatoes that I wouldn't exactly call high end, or exotic. Finally, I have to agree that the service is really off at the EV location. It's a simple menu, in a simple room, and there's really no reason for it.

                              If Steakrules decides to dive into the older places, I think Arturo's and maybe Grimaldi's are going to be give that crunch they want. Don't be put off from trying Lombardi's with a 'well done' order, either...expect a breadier pie with a more old school family style Italian joint, rich sauce, there.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: sugartoof

                                Motorino uses high-quality cheese. The last time I checked, they were using mozzerella di bufala from Campania. There are several pies on the menu that use fior di latte as well, and the two cheeses cool quite differently. As for the canned tomoatoes, most top Neapolitan (or Neapolitan-inspired) places will use a mixture of fresh (crushed and drained) and canned San Marzano tomatoes for their sauce; nothing amiss there.

                                1. re: hcbk0702

                                  Right, but I don't believe they were San Marzano at all. I couldn't say what they used the canned tomatoes for.

                                  Mozzerella di bufala reacts different in my experience (though I don't have a conclusive opinion since freshness, and origins could play a part).

                                  i think their ingredients are as fine as any other pizza place, but I wouldn't hold out that you're getting cheese flown in from Campania, or even California.