Pizza in New York – the pricey, and the priceless.

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…

My midnight cheap eat - 99¢ Fresh Pizza

…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. 
Bubbling hot cheese pie, fresh out the oven

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.
Crispy crust laden with tons of melted cheese - totally worth every cent.

Close-up analysis of what makes this cheap pizza slice so good: bubbles of melted mozzarella cheese interspersed with craters of tomato sauce and grease.

Keste Pizzeria
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

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

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