800° Degrees Pizza has officially opened its doors for regular service to the public, as announced around noon today on its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/800DegreesPizza
Last week, I posted a lengthy rave review here (that some of you may have seen) of a free preview dinner at 800° Degrees that I lucked into. Unfortunately, my post was removed a few hours later due to a site-wide prohibition against reviews of preview meals because, as I was notified by the moderators:
"1) we strive to represent the experience of the average customer, and such meals often represent the restaurant's best efforts to impress, which may not translate to the same experience for average customers during regular service;
"2) it's not fair to the restaurant to review a meal when the restaurant is still working out the kinks and is not expecting to be publicly reviewed for those efforts."
Fair enough. So as soon as I was notified of today's official opening, I rushed back to 800° Degrees to see how it fared and compared under circumstances that fully met Chowhound review guidelines. I am delighted to report that THE MEAL I HAD TODAY WAS EXACTLY THE SAME, NO DIFFERENT, AND JUST AS GREAT as the one I had last week, with only the following trivial differences:
1. I had to pay for my meal today;
2. Because it's still a holiday and buzz for the restaurant was basically limited to its currently small base of Facebook fans, plus the fact that I went at an off-hour (4:30 PM), there were somewhat fewer diners there than last week;
3. I did not order a salad this time; and
4. I remembered to take a couple of iPhone pictures of my pizza, which was the Margherita pie topped with peppadews, caramelized onions, and huge chunks of roasted garlic (see below).
Otherwise, every single detail of my earlier review applies, As such, there is no need to rewrite my virtually identical experience, so I am just going to cut-and-paste below what I posted last week. Except for the practically irrelevant exceptions noted above, everything reprinted below applies to the meal I had today during regular business hours.
If you're able and up for it, I strongly recommend that you run over to 800° Degrees tonight. They'll be open until 2 AM, and you will likely want to give them a try before the buzz machine kicks in, after which I expect the line to regularly go way around the block. Anyway, here's my review:
800° Pizza - An early rave
I don't know what I did to deserve it, but incredibly good fortune rained all over me tonight. I was taking a stroll through Westwood Village, planning to eventually grab a bite to eat, probably at the seriously in-decline Lamonica's. As I came upon the storefront for the much-anticipated neapolitan pizzeria 800°, from the local Umami Restaurant Group, I noticed a good number of very casually dressed people milling about inside. I wasn't sure what to make of this since the sign in the window clearly stated that the restaurant would not be open until the first week of January. Were they ahead of schedule? Was this a by-invitation-only cold opening? I noticed a very cheerful member of the staff standing outside clutching some paper menus, so I asked, "Are you open already?" She handed me a menu and responded, "Come on in. We're serving free dinners tonight."
You read that correctly. No, not a private cold opening. This was an event completely open to the general public at large (a few of whom, judging by their appearances, seemed down on their luck). And the restaurant wasn't just giving out bite-sized samples to passers-by, either. Like everyone else inside, I got to sample an entire meal (any full pizza pie [custom made-to-order], any salad, and a soft drink) completely gratis simply because I happened to be walking past the storefront at just the right moment.
And what a meal it was. I'm not prone to hyperbole, so please believe me when I say that 800° may at long last may be the pizzeria that revolutionizes the way LA (and beyond) consumers think of pizza. You see, 800° is exquisite, gourmet pizza at fast-food chain prices. And it's damn near perfect.
Let's begin with the menu, which can be found here: http://la.eater.com/uploads/800˚_Menu...
Take a look at those prices. Just $5 or $6 dollars for a traditional basic pizza, which at 800° is about 14 inches in diameter. That's less than what two plain slices cost at most pizza joints nowadays. That's cheaper than a smaller-sized pie at Domino's, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, et al, even when they're running a huge special. Now look at how much the toppings cost. The overwhelming majority are just an additional dollar, and they are all fresh, top-shelf, and beautifully displayed. Not to mention the salads for $4 and burrata for $5.
I promise you that the comparisons to dreadful commercial pizza chains end there. But the low prices remain significant, especially when you consider that you can get an 800° pizza absolutely overloaded with superior-quality toppings for about half of what a plain cheese pie costs at Vito's, Joe's, or Mulberry's. What you get for those low 800° prices is one of the only pizzas I've had in LA that compares favorably to the best pies from coal-burning ovens I used to eat in New York City (e.g., places like John's or Garibaldi's). 800°'s superb thin crust has that perfect char that can only be created by someone who knows and cares about what truly great pizza should be. Others locals have attempted this (e.g., Pitfire, Pizzeria Mozza), at times quite successfully, but certainly never at this price point. And certainly not with this kind of whiz-bang service, which I will get to in a moment.
I'm kicking myself that I didn't take any pictures of my food. However, Eater.com recently ran a preview picture of one of 800°'s pies, which can be seen here:
In all seriousness, I think the pizza I was served tonight (and those at the tables around mine) looked even better than the one pictured - definitely thinner and much less puffy.
Perhaps the biggest and most novel "gimmick" at 800° is the ordering process. You stand in line, then place an order directly with the pizza chefs, who will compose your pie to your exact specifications right in front of you. The pizza is then placed in a reportedly 800° oven while you move down the line to order additional items (e.g., appetizers, salad, burrata, dessert gelato) and pay. Perhaps 800°'s biggest marketing ploy has been its promise that your pizza will bake in just a minute. Impossible? I've had all too many microwave pizzas that took significantly longer than that. I swear, though, by the time I got to the cashier (maybe 90 seconds after I ordered my pie followed by a made-to-order salad) my perfect, sizzling, fully baked pizza was already sitting on the counter, waiting for me to carry it to my table.
As I hauled my maxed-out tray to my seat, I realized that this is everything that fast food should be. Then I burst out laughing. I suddenly realized that this was the restaurant Cosmo Kramer and his hygiene-challenged business partner, Poppy, had envisioned on Seinfeld. No cucumber toppings for these pizzas, though. Not yet, anyway.
Did I forget to mention the Ferrari-designed self-serve soda dispenser? Absolutely state-of-the-art and totally cool.
I cannot imagine how 800° is going to handle the crowds. Once word gets out, I fully expect the lines will be insanely, intolerably long. Even with the limited number of patrons tonight, I still had to wait in line about ten minutes before I was able to place my order. Furthermore, as you can see from the Eater photos linked above, the dining area is not especially huge, probably about the size of My Father's Office on Montana, with about 20 mostly small tables in total. Take-out and delivery will be available, but this is definitely a pizza that ought to be eaten as soon as possible right out of the oven. It's obvious the owners are going to need to expand quickly to multiple locations while maintaining the high standards they quite visibly have put in place. Otherwise, the experience during peak hours at this one location may quickly devolve into a nightmare.
None of those concerns detract in the slightest from the swooning pizza high I'm still feeling tonight. In one fell swoop, the insanely affordable 800° has instantly become my favorite pizzeria in Los Angeles. See it for yourselves next week. What an auspicious beginning to the new year!
800 Degrees Pizza
10889 Lindbrook Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90024