271 Bleecker St between Cornelia and Jones Sts (212-243-1500)
The muscle: If anyone can claim to be an expert on Neapolitan pizza, it’s Kesté’s Roberto Caporuscio: As president of the U.S. branch of the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, he’s top dog for the training and certification of pizzaioli (a former dairy farmer and mozzarella maker, he’s also intimately familiar with that most essential cheese).
In addition to all the hallmarks of the Neapolitan product—San Marzano tomatoes, doppio zero flour, scorching-hot wood-burning oven—Caporuscio uses a slow-speed mixer to work his dough. Then, he gently stretches it into a round with his hands, since it’s far too soft for tossing.
The result: “In America now, everyone focuses on the dough, but I don’t eat dough, I eat pizza,” says Caporuscio. That may be true, but man, does he get it right. Puffed with warm pockets of steaming air, it’s tender yet resilient, stretching ever so slightly as you tear it with your hands. All over the golden surface is an even spotting of tiny black blisters, just enough to deliver that brick-oven sear, but not so much that any single bite tastes burnt. Whatever you put on it, from the classic Margherita toppings to butternut squash puree with smoked mozzarella, it’s as close to the platonic ideal as we’ve found.