My search for the best pizza in New York continues….
It’s funny to me how there are celebrities in every field that nobody else really cares about. For instance, I’m sure there’s the top dog real estate guru that all realtors would know by name, but I would treat like anybody else on the street. So, of course the same holds true for the food world. And more specifically, the pizza world.
Any pizza fanatic or serious food writer would know the name Antonio Starita, the owner of the oldest pizzeria in Naples. And if they didn’t, they most certainly do know that he’s opened a New York branch of his Naples pizzeria with his well-established protege Roberto Caporuscio. Roberto, of course, is the pizzaiolo and co-owner of one of my favorite pizza restaurants in the city, Kesté.
I was all too eager to check out this new place and was even more excited when I saw Roberto working behind the open kitchen. The sleek restaurant is much bigger than the West Village digs, but the tables are similarly close together and I was excited to spot a version of my favorite Pizza del Papa on the menu.
But we didn’t order that, as tempted as I was because the menu was huge. So many pizza choices in lots of different categories, like Speciale, Bianche, Rosse, and even Fritte (that’s right, fried pizza).
Fried pizza has begun to gain popularity in NY thanks to Forcella and their montanara pizza. As of this writing, I’m ashamed to admit I have not yet tried it, although I will soon because it is on Time Out’s 100 Best list. So stay tuned. But I did order the Montanara here for my first taste of this speciality.
Now this is different than the battered and deep fried pizza I tried at Chip Shop years ago. This is much more refined and surprisingly greaseless. The dough is indeed deep fried to the consistency (but not sweetness) of a funnel cake. Then it’s topped and baked.
I’m not sure I felt like the fried dough added a whole lot to the pizza experience. It certainly made it crisper and more filling, but I’m on the fence about whether the eating sensation was greater than the calorie intake. The toppings, however were phenomenal here. The tomato sauce had a sweet orange note which was balanced with the smokiness from the smoked mozzarella.
My friend picked the Vesuvio, which was one of the most expensive pies at $23. It was topped with just about everything in the world and then stuffed with whatever was missing. I kind of found this overwhelmed with ingredients – mushrooms, ham, basil, artichokes on top and then salami, ricotta, and mozzarella stuffed inside. It was incredibly filling (I couldn’t even finish an entire slice). And with all the salty rich ingredients, I found it difficult to appreciate the crispy crust.
The best pizza we tried was the Pistacchio E Salsiccia (which was my choice, thank you very much!) This was a perfect example of everything I love at Kesté – masterful dough that’s both thin and pillowy, surprising combination of flavors that worked, and the right amount of cheese ratio. It was topped with a pistachio pesto (which was slightly sweeter than the pine nut variety), crumbled sausage, buttery homemade mozzarella, sharp pecorino, and bright fresh basil leaves. It worked wonders!
I will be returning to Don Antonio rather soon since there is a whole world of pizzas (not to mention appetizers and paninis) still left for me to try. I sort of glazed over the menu after a while and couldn’t read the entire thing since there were so many options. Or I might have been too busy gawking at the celebrities manning the wood burning pizza oven. Most normal people wouldn’t have had that problem.
Is Don Antonio the best pizza in NY? It’s hard for me to fully say after trying just three pies, which ranged from amazing to not my thing. For now, they get a 8 out of 10 but I’ll be returning for a re-evaluation.
|309 West 50th Street (between Eighth and Ninth Avenue),