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Restaurant Openings

Week of March 23, 2009: Kesté Pizza & Vino, Sora Lella, and Num Pang.

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Kesté Pizza & Vino
271 Bleecker St., nr. Morton St.; 212-243-1500
In the Neapolitan dialect, “kesté” means “this is it,” which, in the fractious world of pizza freaks, has a bit of the ring of a gauntlet being thrown down. Kesté, though, which hopes to open its Bleecker Street doors as early as next weekend, or as soon as a vital piece of oven equipment arrives, might just be the biggest thing in pizza to hit this town since Gennaro Lombardi. About that oven: crafted by artisans who flew in from Naples, it meets the strictest standards of Neapolitan pizza-making, from the size of the mouth to the shape of the dome to the wood stacked up for fuel. Chef-owner Roberto Caporuscio would have it no other way. A dairy farmer-turned-cheese-salesman who found his calling relatively late in life, Caporuscio is so obsessed with authentic ingredients and traditional technique he presides over the American chapter of a trade association, Associazone Pizzaiouli Napoletana, that certifies pizza makers, much like the older Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana certifies restaurants. After establishing Neapolitan-pizza beachheads in such unlikely locales as the outskirts of Pittsburgh and Ridgewood, New Jersey, Caporuscio trained pizzaioli in Denver, St. Louis, and Chicago, and after Kesté gets its footing, he plans to launch 10-day, $4,000 workshops for professionals and amateurs alike. Until then, he will focus all his attention on turning out twelve-inch pies in such classic permutations as Margerita, Marinara, and Mast’ Nicola, the first recorded pizza, topped with lardo, Pecorino Romano, and basil.

Sora Lella
300 Spring St., nr. Hudson St. 212-366-4749
It’s taken 50 years for Sora Lella, the celebrity haunt founded by actor Aldo Fabrizi’s sister Elena on Rome’s Isola Tiberina, to expand Stateside. This week, Elena’s grandsons Mauro and Simone Trabalza, and their partner Fabio Maltese, open a West Soho outpost in the space that briefly housed Lomito. They have been aided in this task by Gian Luca Giovanetti and Pierluigi Palazzo, fellow expats who consider it their life’s work (in addition to running the East Village’s Gnocco and Perbacco) to import and showcase authentic Italian culinary culture. In the case of Sora Lella, that means such Über-Roman fare as paccheri all’amatriciana, puntarelle with anchovy dressing, and artichokes two ways (fried Jewish style, or steamed and stuffed with anchovy, garlic, and mint).

Num Pang
21 E. 12th St., nr. University Pl. 212-255-3271
One of the best things at Kampuchea, New York’s sole Cambodian restaurant, is the sandwich known as num pang—essentially Vietnamese bánh mì by another name. With the opening this weekend of the restaurant’s sandwich-shop spinoff, Num Pang, the number of places to eat Cambodian food in the city doubles, and it’s safe to say that the ever popular bánh mì will begin to feel the heat of competition. The cheerful little café has eight stools, a couple stand-up counters, and a rotating roster of sandwiches, from peppercorn catfish to hoisin meatballs ($6.75 to $9.25), served on toasted Parisi mini-baguettes with the usual pickled carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, and homemade chile-mayo.


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