#16 Kesté, New York City (Kesté)
"This is it. New York’s #1," notes Kesté’s website. And yes, that’s actually what the restaurant’s name Kesté means in Neapolitan dialect: "This is it." Hard to argue it doesn’t belong in the conversation. See, this is the place you take Italians, better yet Neapolitans, or anyone who has lived in Italy and experienced its pizza culture when they ask for demonstrations of New York’s Neapolitan pizza culture. It’s a recurring scene that has been played out time after time: They sidle in skeptically, protest, complain, critique the menu, décor, oven, you, and then they see and taste Roberto Caporuscio’s pizza. They catch themselves, begrudgingly and not out of politeness, note it is quite close to the real thing — fine, at least better than they could have imagined it could be in America.
And with good reason, Caporuscio was born and raised on a dairy farm in Pontinia, Italy, an hour outside Naples. He’s the U.S. president of the Association of Neapolitan Pizzaiuoli (APN — Association of Neapolitan Pizza Makers), the Italian governing body that teaches the 150-year-old art of Neapolitan pizza-making, and certiﬁes adherence to authentic procedures. Pizza at Kesté has that signature chewy crust, the soft slightly soupy middle, the right balance of quality ingredients. Close your eyes and you’re almost transported to the back alleys of Naples that almost refuse to let go. And while you may not want to share it with your traditional-minded Italian friends, the eponymous pie with tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, arugula, Gran Cru, and olive oil takes the restaurant’s name with good reason.