The façade of Kesté Pizza and Vino is unassuming: nestled comfortably on Bleecker among other West Village eateries. When Chef Roberto Caporuscio opened Kesté in 2009, he sought to bring authentic Neapolitan pizza to New York City. It is a feat well-
accomplished, as the food coming out of his kitchen met high praise from the likes of “New York Magazine” and “Food and Wine.” But success did not satisfy Caporuscio into complacency. This past summer, he relaunched Kesté with a new menu that features 17 new pizzas, as part of an effort to deliver to his customers not only a superior meal, but a meal that would ring true of his Neapolitan heritage.
“To be better every day, this is my goal and my employees’ goal,” Caporuscio said. He could not have better summed up the philosophy behind everything that happens in Kesté’s kitchen, from the relaunch to dinner service.
Of the 17 new pies, two stand out in the eyes of staff and diners alike. The Vesuvio ($23), a behemoth among its thin crust peers, features a stuffing of homemade mozzarella, ricotta and salami, and a topping of Italian ham, mushrooms, basil and artichoke. The Pistacchio e Salsiccia ($21) may appear more familiar to most New Yorkers, with ample mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil accompanied with pistachio pesto, sausage and Pecorino Romano.
Caporuscio’s mastery really shines in these two pies. The crust remains airy and fragrant of olive oil, and the interplay between ingredients is almost symphonic. Each bite of the Vesuvio highlights a different component. The rich artichoke may shine forward in one bite, or the ham may be flavorful; complemented nicely by notes of basil. However, every bite is delicately balanced. No ingredient is neglected or overused.
“Consider a pizza, like any other dish in Italy,” Caporuscio said. “It is supposed to be balanced between all the ingredients all the time.”
The individual importance of each ingredient and the necessity of balance in each pie govern more than just the menu’s additions. The fresh mozzarella is homemade, thanks to Caporuscio’s cheese-making background, but the buffalo mozzarella is sourced from Italy. After plenty of searching, the chef discovered an extra virgin olive oil that does not have “too much power or too much lightness.” The tomatoes, vegetables and meats are all the product of similar searches for the highest quality and authenticity, to replicate the variety used in Naples.
When you come to Kesté, Caporuscio wants to bring you to his grandmother’s kitchen to taste the flavors and smell the fragrances of Naples — a place that is locked in time but can be visited by traveling through his new menu. It is a true testament of his commitment to his customer, his home and his past.
“Food is memory. It’s history,” Caporuscio said. “It can bring you back to when you were a kid, and that’s, for some us, a very important part of life.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 18 print edition. Dylan Freehauf is a contributing writer. Email him email@example.com.
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