If Adam Fleischman is aiming to become the Henry Ford of the pizza world, he's made a good start of it with 800 Degrees, the Westwood pizzeria he officially opens on January 3rd. It features a long counter where diners choose from dozens of toppings in a process more common to Subway or Chipotle than to a Neapolitan pizzeria. 800 Degrees, however, eschews pedestrian toppings like green bell peppers and pineapple chunks in favor of peppadews, prosciutto and long-stemmed Italian artichokes. Here, we have the inevitable "masstige" trend so popular in fashion (ex: Missoni's line for Target) translated to the restaurant world.
Putting aside the question of what precisely "authentic" Neapolitan pizza is, an issue so complicated it would require a summit of Camp David-level diplomacy to untangle, 800 Degrees is making a play for the vast UCLA student crowd with pizzas that start at just $5. Fleischman is nothing if not pragmatic. [Photo gallery after the jump.]
The Umami impresario says he's aiming for the kind of ambiance -- casual, modern and bustling with gourmet touches -- that will also win over local office workers and residents. 800 Degreees carries half-a-dozen L.A. Creamery gelato flavors including Sicilian pistachio and biscotti cookies & cream.
One other thing: 800 Degrees features the soda machine of the future: a sleek, automated, silver thing that's made by Ferrari and dispenses dozens of sodas including four flavors of Mello Yello (peach!). More on this at a later date. Just know that we have seen the promised land of soda dispensers.
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Fleischman is partnered in the business with his Umami cohort Allen Ravert and with Anthony Carron, the palate of the 800 Degrees operation. The latter is a self-trained chef who learned the ways of the restaurant world when his family took over and revamped a classic diner in St. Louis. Not wanting to spend his life cooking breakfast, he moved on to bigger and better things.
As for Fleischman's favorite pizza, he loves a purist's pie, topped with nothing beyond tomato sauce, anchovies and roasted garlic. For the man who transformed his gourmet burger restaurant with a franchise business mentality, Fleischman is surprisingly old school when it comes to pizza.
Elina Shatkin is a staff writer at LA Weekly. Follow her at @elinashatkin or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.