Keste::West Village, Manhattan

salsiccia pizza

KESTÈ PIZZE E VINO

So I guess Monday nights are pizza nights.

That’s the impression I got from Keste anyway. The narrow Bleecker Street restaurant was packed to the gills and hot as hell. You’d think there was a wood-burning oven in there.

New York Magazine swears that Keste beats any Neopolitan pie outside of Naples. I’m not so sure. I really wanted to go to Una Pizza Napoletana, but the eccentric/amply tattooed pizza man, Anthony Mangieri, tells me they’ve closed their location. His hands needed a vacation methinks.

So Goody Bathtub and I chose Keste.

It’s a Love Story

The Italian-speaking host charmed and confused GB and I as he corralled us into a table for two. Handed us our menus and put a carafe of water on the table. Minutes after we ordered, our Salsiccia pizze arrived ($15 apiece). Swift service, perfect. I was impressed.

Everyone around us looked happy about their food–arugula salads with thick shavings of parmigiano reggiano, and mmm, who doesn’t love a caprese platter? It may have been the Neopolitan gentleman eliciting their smiles though. Who can tell?

Ah, what light and thin crust on Keste pies! San Marzano tomatoes = wow. And what beautiful mozzarella! The ingredients–key to creating any fine cuisine–are fresh to taste and easily leave any self-proclaimed “Best in New York” pizzeria in the dust.

Another Menu to Burn

If I return to Keste, I will try a different pie. Yes, the sausage was fine, but its flavor didn’t blend with the delicious fresh mozzarella and acid-y tomato sauce. Two tables over I noticed a pizza with long slices of prosciutto and arugala (Prosciutto e Arugola, $16). That may be the way to go next time.

The chewy, burnt crust satisfied at times, but I found it excessively doughy halfway through. I prefer a crisper crust. You may not.

kesteplateAs you can see, I was able to finish the pie. More notable is the adorable plate Keste serves their pizze on. Check out the cute pizzaiolo tossing his pizza around. Note: The pizzaioli at Keste don’t wear white hats or coats, or have ghostly pale skin tone. (Casper may have Monday’s off.)

Keste cuts the pie into four quadrants. According to New York, I am supposed to know how to fold and eat the pizza using my hands instead of a fork and knife. Well, I couldn’t shape it into the triangle they depict in the magazine, but I did my best. It’s possible that my incorrect approach hindered my ability to fully appreciate the flavor of Keste.

Tied Together With (or Without) a Smile

Keste’s got a lot to offer–mostly in the form of extreme heat and market-fresh ingredients. Avoid a heavy topping like sausage and opt for the Regina Margherita to fully experience the flavor explosion of fresh mozzarella, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and nearly-transparent crust. Next time I’ll try the caprese plate and a different pizza–and wine.

Keste
271 Bleecker St. (Near Morton St.)
New York, NY
1 train to Christopher St.; ABCDFV to West 4th

PS You’ll see a lot of these on your way to Keste. Beware.

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Magnolia Bakery::City wide

MAGNOLIA BAKERY

I know, I know. The cupcake revolution has passed. It’s all about doughnuts. Momofuku soft-serve. Dessert Trucks.

I get it.

If that’s true, why must I step around snaking queues of eager patrons outside of every Magnolia location?

Because the cupcake is still on–whether you like it or not.

Magnolia, the quintessential cupcake purveyor of the city, has had its chance to cultivate a new post-Sex and the City Manhattanite clientele. Instead, they’ve chosen to cater to tourists without discerning palates, who are, more likely than not, cupcake shop virgins. The novelty of it all.

Well, Magnolia is spreading its wings and landing in Grand Central’s Feeding Area. Their new location will overtake the Little Pie Company (overpriced and underwhelming), a few steps from the Two Boots counter. An ideal audience.

That doesn’t mean I’ll go there … even though I love that Two Boots counter.

It’s a Love Story

Goody Bathtub and I visited the original Magnolia on Bleecker Street. It was nearly empty, eerie. The serve-yourself style at Magnolia works well on quiet days, even though I sometimes catch customers groping for chocolate frosted vanilla cakes with their bare fingers. Shudder.

magnoliacupcakeHaving tried all of their cakes, I selected what I consider to be their ultimate creation: the vanilla-vanilla ($2.50 each). Ordinarily, a boring choice, but Magnolia has found their balance in this cupcake. The chocolate frosting boasts a sweetness that pains my face to swallow–too much confectioners sugar? And their chocolate cake tastes dry and stale.

In contrast, the vanilla cake wasn’t too sweet. It didn’t steal from the frosting’s perfection, but finely complemented it. At Magnolia, one cupcake is more than enough.

Also, I like the decorative (and, obviously, edible) sprinkles.

Another Menu to Burn

Goody Bathtub ordered the legendary Banana Pudding ($4.50 for small, $5.50 for large). It’s not what your grandmother makes. Think of the thickest, creamiest pudding parfait you’ve ever had. Add whipped cream, Nilla wafers, and freshly sliced bananas. Sounds good, right?

magnoliabananapudIt is …. but because Magnolia makes vats of the stuff well in advance the bananas change and infuse their sugary ripeness further into the pudding, thus–in my mind, at least–corrupting the velvety pudding mixture. It’s best when fresh. (Try making it here.)

Please take this warning: Do not, under any circumstance, visit the Magnolia in Rockefeller Center. Madness^25. They have three ordering areas: Beverages, Non-cupcake confections, Cupcakes. The space can’t be bigger than my living room and most people are so thrilled to finally experience Magnolia that they’re willing to trample over innocents such as myself.

So they’ve gotten in the line for beverages but want a dozen cupcakes? Why not storm forward and push patient patrons up against the ineffective (and harsh) glass partition at the cupcake area!

Tied Together With (or Without) a Smile

Magnolia’s Magnolia. No denying that. But they’re not the best in the city. Sugar Sweet Sunshine is number one in my book, but there’s cupcake shops I haven’t tried. If you know of any, please tell me. I’m dying to try something new.

You live in the city? Yeah, take your out-of-towners to Magnolia. “This is the one from Sex and the City,” they’ll giggle as they step up to the line on 11th Street. It’s worth $2.50, for sure. I’ll give it that much.

Magnolia Bakery
various locations