I sat on a cramped Boeing 727 peeking out my seat’s window and dreaming of the soft, charred dough made in the City of Pizza… New York. After 12 years of making pizza, it was finally my turn. I was on a business trip with an ulterior motive of one big thing, finally trying a slice (or five) of New York style pizza. It had to be the first thing I did, the first night of my trip – there was no other way about it. It was to be my ‘Welcome to New York, taste buds!’ christening that had been in the back of my mind since the trip's inception. I wanted to literally step off the plane, drop of my baggage, and head straight for pizza… so I did.
I had my preconceived notions of New York pie. It was in every way almost exactly what I had dreamed of – and more. A wood-fired oven in a cramped restaurant space, buzzing with people packed in for a tasty and doughy warm winter dinner. I met my business associate at a place she recommended we visit, called Kesté Pizza and Vino. Kesté is located in New York’s West village, the western (and original) portion of the Greenwich Village neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It was similar to all others New York places in the fact that I knew nothing about it! Trying to find the best place to go on your first trip to the Big Apple is pretty intimidating. There were so many places to go: Patsy’s, Motorino, John’s of Bleecker, Joe’s, Di Fara, and Grimaldi’s, just to name a few. How was I supposed to know just based on reviews? I did what anyone else would probably do, and asked a local.
We squeezed in at a wobbly two-top table near the front door of the place; not the ideal spot but I wasn’t there for the ambiance anyway. I gazed upon my menu, expecting to find a half page menu with super simplistic Naples style ingredients. To my surprise the menu was quite large, a seven-section miniature book filled with pizza possibilities. It didn’t take me long. I spotted my pie: the Pizza Del Re ("pizza of kings" in Italian). A charred pie slathered with a truffled mushroom spread and topped with salty thin-sliced prosciutto. “Go big or go home,” I thought when I placed my order. My wait time was average, 20 minutes or so – just what I’d expect at any other pizza joint making their pie from scratch.
I’ll forever remember that first bite. I picked up my first slice, folding it in half to give it enough structure to bring it to my mouth. The first chew reminded me of naan, the Indian flatbread prepared in a tandoori oven. It was soft and pillowy with amazing flavor that was immediately enveloped by the truffles and prosciutto. The mozzarella sneaked its way somewhere into the middle of the flavor profile, hiding between the subtle dough and pronounced fungus and pork. I was instantly a fan, and New York won a place in my palate and my heart only two hours off of the plane.
Given the choice I’d definitely go back, if only for a day and only for the pizza. Three days in New York City was only a small sample I’m sure, but at least now I know the magic that is authentic New York pizza. If you haven’t been, or worse if you've been and you neglected to try it, heed these wise words: tasting is believing!