Over the weekend, I found myself in Westwood Village; the stomping grounds of UCLA students and faculty. It was an hour into my photography workshops at Bel Air Camera shop and I was super hungry. “Where the heck am I going to eat?” I kept saying to myself in between listening to f-stops and shutter speeds. My friend Carol leaned over and whispered, “Sunny, do you want to eat pizza for lunch? You see, 800 Degrees Pizza is just a couple blocks away. You’ll love the place.” Hmmm, eating pizza sounded very appetizing. “What’s so special about this pizza joint?” I replied. Carol looked at me with a bit of a surprise and answered, “Sunny, if you love Umami Burgers and Umamicatessen, then you’ll love 800 Degrees Pizza.“
Amazing! Carol wasn’t kidding about this place. 800 Degrees is like a Subway Sandwich franchise for pizzas. I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s counter-style ordering just like it is at a Subway Sandwich shop. Fresh pizza dough shaped and rounded off right in front of you. There are three basic pizzas to choose from; Margherita, Bianca, and Marinara. You choose what you desire on top of your pizza. The add-on toppings are as fresh as you can find them and they have plethora them to choose for mostly a $1 each unless you want shrimp for like $3. We opted-in for a Pizza Marinara with a selection of add-ons like Ricotta cheese, red onions, basil, and capers. We also added sausage, because Carol insisted that I try the sausage. It’s made in-house and she claimed that it was very tasty. We also ordered a Gorgonzola Salad and a few sodas to complete our early afternoon lunch.
Carol never hesitated to say what she wanted on our pizza. “We need a little more of this and that,” as she pointed out to each topping. She’s a trained Chef and had worked for many years as a Food Stylist in the entertainment industry. I knew I was in good hands when it came to ordering, because Carol had been to 800 Degrees many times since they opened a few months ago. So, I left every detail to her to choose while I spent most of my time in “aw” with the restaurant and bopping away with entire 80’s new wave music blasting in the background.
I was amazed with how efficient it was to watch the crew make our pizza directly in front of us and how they handled the long line of customers. If you wanted a little more basil, you ask for it. If you wanted to add a tad more sauce, you ask for it. If you don’t want so much red onion, you tell them. The crew is a little skimpy with the toppings, which is why they seek your commands to tell them what to do. Customer service was very friendly and extremely attentive.
In a few short in minutes, our pizza was fresh out of the wood-burning oven. The timing surprised me, because there wasn’t much of a wait from the time you order until the time you pick up your pizza. My friend and I arrived shortly before noon when there was no line. However, during our dining time, the line was long and outside the door, but it was handled efficiently by the staff.
I took my first bite of our pizza. Wow! The crust is thin and crispy on the sides yet chewy in the middle. The delicate taste of the crust is just like an oyster cracker.
The sauce and toppings baked well and didn’t seem to over power the flavor of the crust. The Marinara sauce was not as robust as I thought it would be, but it was delicious. As for the sausage, well, Carol was right about choosing it. It is indeed a homemade Italian sausage; very tender and sweet. As for our Gorgonzola Salad, it was just as mesmerizing as our pizza. Light, buttery leaves of lettuce with plenty of gorgonzola cheese, cranberries, tossed in a light-bodied vinaigrette.
The one thing I kept craving was salt, some fresh cracked pepper, and a few pinches of red pepper flakes as I would have loved to have these spices as the final touches to our pizza. It was a surprise to not find these basic staples on the tables or at the counter where you pick up plates and utensils.
After dining at 800 Degrees, I stopped to reflect how amazing it is to experience first hand how pizza in Los Angeles has evolved to satisfy its urban Foodies. I think 800 Degrees has a unique L.A. style pizza that’s pretty darn good. The menu is simple and all the ingredients are fresh, which are the few things that I love about this place. The ambiance is energetic yet relaxed, and it sort of reminds me of my pizza eating days in Rome, Italy where you lounge around and people-watch. Oh, and the cost for feeding two people is extremely reasonable too; a pizza with add-ons, a large specialty salad, and two sodas cost about $21. This is the best pizza concept to hit Los Angeles in a long time. It’s all good!