April 17th, 2016
Los Angeles, CA
After all of the biking on LA Day 1, we (Eric) were very excited to be able to walk to the next location on the 101 List. 800 Degrees has a location right in downtown Santa Monica, about a 10 minute walk from where we were staying.
800 Degrees is as close as you can get to fast-food pizza. You pick a crust, a sauce (red, pesto, or no sauce), then customize with your choice of vegetables, meats, and cheeses. Or, you can pick one of the chef’s classic pizza combinations. They have a decent variety of appetizers and sides that you can try. Also, if you follow their instagram, they post a daily “Pizza of the Day”, which is half off the price of a normal pizza (so, about $4). We weren’t fans of whatever the PoTD was when we went, so we decided to try a regular Margherita (are you surprised?), and then ordered a second pie with a pesto base.
The pies were done so quickly, which was probably the best thing about this place. If you are in a rush, and want a fast, but decently good, Neapolitan pizza, this is a great place to stop. Does it compare to the other Neapolitan pies that we’ve eaten around LA (and the rest of the US)? No. Not at all. But it wasn’t bad, either.
We’ve been to other fast-casual pizzerias and this one is probably our favorite of the bunch, but it could never take the place of a real Neapolitan pie. The cheese was a little undercooked, and the crust was just nothing special, and apparently can be hit or miss. It does have some things going for it, though, compared to other fast casual joints like MOD Pizza and Blaze, including more toppings (43 vs 23 and 24) and a more Neapolitan-style crust. The toppings are all fresh, and there are some unique ones, like truffle cheese.
We aren’t surprised by the trend that fast casual pizzas are gaining in popularity. In 2015, 3 of the top 5 fastest growing brands in the top 500 chain restaurants were pizzerias (although, 800 Degrees wasn’t one of them). Our friend in LA swears by Blaze, but we didn’t have the chance to try that out this time around.
Our final pizza stop in LA was at Gjelina, and we had made a dinner reservation beforehand. Since Eric had an early evening flight, we had to get in right as Gjelina opened for dinner in order to have enough time to eat and drive him to the airport. We were cutting it a bit close.
Since there were three of us, we were able to try a couple of different pies. We got a Pomodoro with burrata, and this shaved asparagus pie with leek, shallot, garlic, fontina, and an egg on top. It was awesome. It just felt like spring. I think we may have also had a salad (I seem to remember getting something with kale), but these pizzas must have overshadowed anything else that we tried, because I can’t remember eating anything else.
It was great to end our LA weekend with these pizzas, which gave Mozza a run for our favorite pies of the trip. A couple of tips if you decide to make the trip to Gjelina:
1) Make a reservation. Weeks in advance, if you are making a special trip. Unless you happen to enjoy queuing for a few hours.
2) Give yourself a lot of time to find parking around Abbot Kinney. You’ll be driving in circles.
3) Eat outside if you can, because the inside is pretty loud.
4) Bring a lot of money, because you will want to try ALL of the appetizers and pizzas. This is Los Angeles, so nothing is inexpensive.
5) As full as you are after eating here, you should make a stop for the amazing ice cream at Salt & Straw. Don’t worry – you will have time to digest your pizza because there will certainly be a line there too.
120 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(or other locations)