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.
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.