photo by David Penner

New York City may be protective of its pizza style, but over the years, it has embraced a few guardians of the Neapolitan version. The best in Lower Manhattan is Kesté, presided over by chef-owner Roberto Caporuscio, a pizzaiolo decorated with credentials for his expertise in dough, tomato, and mozzarella. When he’s not busy presiding over the U.S. chapter of the Associazone Pizzaiuoli Napoletani or up in midtown slinging pies at Don Antonio, he’s in the West Village at his home base with the brown awning, tweaking his lengthy, reliable menu for the fervent fans who crowd Kesté’s hallway-size dining room. Despite his résumé, Caporuscio is no purist: Here, there are spicy pizzas loaded with hot sopressata; white pies spread with walnut cream, green zucchini, and smoked mozzarella; pizzas dripping Nutella; and, nowadays, gluten-free options. But the obsessiveness of his craft comes across best in the margherita, topped with homemade mozzarella and bright tomato sauce, then blistered and charred in a Neapolitan oven until the seasoned crust is just-right chewy.