Fresh pizza in roughly two minutes at 800 Degrees Pizzeria in Downtown Santa Monica. (Michael Ryan michael@smdp.com)

Fresh pizza in roughly two minutes at 800 Degrees Pizzeria in Downtown Santa Monica. (Michael Ryan michael@smdp.com)

The reputation that precedes the new 800 Degrees Santa Monica is all good. That’s because the original Westwood location has seen nothing but success since its inception just a couple years back.

And while the long lunch lines may seem daunting, don’t fret, they move really fast. The key to the speed is the assembly-line-style service made famous by Chipotle. Some may argue Subway. While others would argue Ford. Regardless, it’s a proven system in speed and efficiency that is tailor-made for what people are lining up for in the first place — pizza.

Neapolitan pizza to be exact, which starts with a hand-tossed, thinly stretched dough (don’t worry there’s a gluten-free option as well). With the dough resting on a pizza peel, you’re in the drivers seat now. To keep the general flow of the line going it’s best to have hammered out a blueprint because the possibilities are essentially endless.

Base models include margherita, bianca (no sauce), marinara (no cheese) and verde (pesto). The pizza moves down the line to the next station for a long list of special features and add-ons. Toppings include all the standards as well as some luxury items including bacon marmalade, manila clams, and buffalo mozzarella. Once the pizza is fully assembled, it’s slid into a wood burning oven at (its namesake) 800 degrees. By the time you pay (I clocked it in at two minutes) the pizza is hot out of the oven and ready to eat.

The wood burning inferno renders a char-flecked crust, soft and chewy on the inside. The meld of melted cheese, bubbling sauce and scorched toppings flirt dangerously with breaking through the bottom of the pie. Everything miraculously stays intact.

My pizza, margherita with soppressata and mushrooms, set me back around nine bucks. Not too shabby for a great tasting pie assembled and cooked in a matter of minutes.

As painless and delicious as this all seems, there are a couple of hazards that should be avoided. One of them being pizza remorse. Kurt Vonnegut once said “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, it might have been.” Sitting down to a cheese pizza wishing you had topped it with prosciutto and arugula is a true lunch time tragedy.

On the flip side, beware of the over embellished pizza. When you choose too many toppings, not only is your pizza now $30, but the pineapple and meatballs don’t seem to be getting along with the eggplant and anchovies. Worse yet, your Noah’s Arc pie turns to soup in the oven because it’s over capacity.

Choose your toppings with intent, or just go with one of 800 Degrees specialty pies like the Capricciosa (artichokes, mushrooms, olives and ham) or the Tartufo (truffle cheese, mushrooms, roasted garlic and arugula), or a dozen other options they have to offer.

With a selection of salads, sides, beer and wine on tap (always better priced due to less bottling) there is plenty of support to go with the main course. Plus they have one of those new age, touchscreen soft-drink machines with 100-plus varieties. A custom made soda only seems appropriate with a custom made pie.

800 Degrees is literally Santa Monica’s newest hot spot.

 

If you go

800 Degrees Pizzeria

120 Wilshire Blvd.

Santa Monica, Calif.

90401

(310) 566-0801

www.800degreespizza.com

 

 

Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food. He can be reached at michael@smdp.com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/greaseweek