Keste formally opened in the West Village tonight so I went down for a first taste. This is Roberto Caporuscio's place.
Overall, I'd rate it technically strong but spiritually wanting.
This was an authentic Neapolitan pizza with no compromises to appease U.S. tastes. I respect that. The oversized Neapolitan wood oven produced a nicely baked top - even, browned, and charred very well. The bottom, not as much, but still acceptable.
Cornicione texture was excellent - light and airy with a thin, crisp exterior. It deliciously collapsed in the mouth when bitten into. A home run that. Unfortunately, moving inward under the sauce revealed at least one gummy patch of undercooked dough (see picture). Crust flavor was what you might expect with commercial yeast - a mild, pleasant yeasty taste that is otherwise unremarkable compared to how a wild yeast crust can be.
Ingredients were simple and true to Neapolitan tradition, but strayed from having the flavor impact they might have. The sauce was a good simple San Marzano but came off too fresh and bright. The frozen-then-thawed bufala mozzarella from Italy tried hard but lacked flavor and had a slightly rubbery texture. The oil was so spare it could hardly be tasted. The basil was good, but like the other ingredients was unintegrated.
To me, integration is the difference between a simple amalgamation of good ingredients and a great new harmonious flavor that becomes greater than its parts as they all speak with one voice.
I can taste the soul in a UPN pizza. I can taste the soul in a Motorino pizza. Keste pizza is technically very correct and obedient to tradition, but I could not taste the same soul in it.