My food expedition in NYC had to commence with a customary slice of pizza in the city, and I wasted no time in getting started. Jet lagged and jacket-less (the weather in NY was downright disgusting), I trekked it across to Keste in the West Village to meet an old-colleague-turned-close-friend-and-mentor as soon as I’d dropped my bags off. Keste had the typical NY popular-place vibe, bustling with servers and customers, a 20-30 minute line outside (at least on the Monday night when I made it there, bet its longer on the weekends), and enough online discussions and reviews that made me salivate about the pizza I was going to eat even before I’d made it to the door.
I ordered a simple Margherita pizza – any place that claims to be authentic Neopolitana better get their basic Margherita right. And Keste got it right, with a crust that was well-browned and crackery along the edges, and slightly moist and chewy at the center, where the crust had sopped up all the cheese and tomato juices. The minimalist dabs of fresh buffala mozzarella and sweetish tomato sauce, sprinked with fresh basil, was all very authentic – though I really didn’t walk away with a spectacular taste-bud changing experience. Maybe, and totally contrary to the reviews I’d read, it was the tomato sauce that tasted somewhat meek. Not quite sure what could have made the sauce more memorable – maybe an extra pinch of salt, or a garlic clove or two? Either way, my experience at Keste was good, just nothing to rave about.
In complete contrast to my $12 authentic personal Neopolitana pizza at Keste, I grabbed a 99¢ slice of greasy NY-style pizza on 43rd street, between Lex and 3rd Ave...
...and folded it down the center like any self-respecting (ex-)New Yorker would, thereby letting the pizza juices drizzle down the bubbling cheesy center with optimal flavor-enhancing efficiency. I’ve read that this may be related to the equally-awesome 99¢ pizza place behind Port Authority that I’d secretly sneak away to after for a post-dinner snack on those days when no amount of food could be enough to satiate the monster in me. What I love about these 99¢ places is that their menu is laser-focused on a dirt-cheap basic cheese pizza pie, that sells quickly, is always fresh out the oven, and doesn’t sit around getting stale like the pies in many of those other pizza-selling delis with more variety, but slower-selling pies.
I agree with the Midtown Lunch review which rightly says ‘And of course, it’s so cheap you’ll convince yourself it tastes better than it actually does.’ And I’d convinced myself many, many slices ago. So 99¢ Fresh Pizza, bring on the Grease.
Phone: +1 (212) 243-1500
271 Bleecker St, New York NY 10014
99¢ Fresh Pizza
Phone: +1 (212) 922-0257
151 E. 43rd St. (between Lexington and 3rd Avenue), New York NY 10017