Some have it called the "Chiptole-ization of pizza." Some have described it as the city's "next big one" in the world of casual dining. Whatever you call it, quick-service pizza joints, which specialize in customizable pizzas cooked in minutes flat and served counterside, are quickly becoming the new hotness in Los Angeles.
The business model created by Adam Fleischman's 800 Degrees in Westwood has proven extremely popular with consumers, inspiring several new pizza contenders, two of which we put to the test today (another is Blaze Pizza, an Irvine pie-slinger that plans to have a Pasadena location open by late October).
After months of hype, the tongue-twisting Clusi Batusi finally opened on the Sawtelle strip in early September. The restaurant is based around thin-crust, 10-inch pizzas baked in a 1,200-degree oven for about a minute. Customers have the option to either construct their own or choose from about 10 curated combinations. The Spicy Meatball ($8), layered with sliced homemade meatballs, pepperoncini and marinara sauce, was pretty spectacular: The meatballs were tender and fragrant with fennel, the marinara laced with the right amount of tangy kick.
The Clusi's Favorite ($8), made from D.O.P. Pecorino sauce, balsamic mushrooms, arugula and melted mozzarella, was sublime as well, if a tad dry. It's obvious that Clusi's is putting effort into sourcing top-tier ingredients and mixing quality dough, which had the slight tang of a properly fermented batch. The crust is very crispy and wafer-thin, which should please "Roman-style crust" purists, but might not satisfy lunchgoers looking to carb it up.
At PizzaRev, which has two locations, Northridge and, newly opened, Studio City, you won't have to worry about not being filled up by a single pie. The pizzas here are a bit larger, around 11 inches, and offer an unlimited selection of toppings (premiums like burrata or sopressata are extra). As the saying goes, with unlimited toppings comes great responsibility. Load on too many -- free stuff is tempting, after all -- and you end up with a soggy, undercooked pie. We watched a few people in line ahead of us seal their fate, to our horror, by adding as many as 10 toppings.
But even if you restrain yourself to a few, the eager pizza architects working the line pile on the portions of, say, mushrooms, sausage, onions and mozzarella. We're usually not one to complain about extra cheese, but in this case the staff's eagerness to satisfy customers results in a beautiful, char-speckled thin crust that becomes absolutely overwhelmed by what lies atop.
The fact that PizzaRev's oven -- the largest in L.A., according to the staff -- operates at a paltry 600 degrees and cooks pizzas for only a few minutes, doesn't help matters. Our combination of red sauce, fennel sausage, onions, peppers, mushrooms and olives ($7.95) was decent -- and certainly hefty -- but the quality of the sauce, cheese and toppings didn't match up to the artisanal, homemade products at Clusi's.
For our palate, Clusi Batusi is a clear winner, but if you're looking for the most bang for your buck, PizzaRev might be to your liking.