What looks like another pizzeria in Hollywood is actually so much more. 800 Degrees Pizza founder and corporate executive Chef Anthony Carron, created his first authentic Neapolitan-style pizzeria in 2012 in Westwood Village. What makes his pizza different is the delicious Old World flavors made with chewy, hand-stretched dough, innovative sauces, premium-quality cheeses, farm fresh produce and charcuterie. Now, Carron and 800 Degrees’ new C.E.O. Tommy Lee are turning up the heat with a new 800 Degrees concept in Hollywood. Not only does this location offer a new look, but they are introducing rotisserie chicken, new side dishes, desserts and craft cocktails.
Chef Carron is a St. Louis native who moved out West in 2001 to pursue a career in fine dining. First he worked at Michael Mina’s San Francisco restaurant, AQUA and within six years he became the Corporate Executive Chef of the Mina Restaurant Group. During his tenure, Carron developed and opened more than a dozen high-profile, fine-dining restaurants throughout the country. Dreaming of opening his own concept restaurant, he left the Mina Group 2011 and launched 800 Degrees one year later.
His new 800 Degrees Hollywood is inspired by visiting Isola d’Ischia, a volcanic island off the coast of Naples. While eating at a variety of rosticcerias and pizzerias, Carron noticed a connection between the union of pizza rotisserie chicken and salad.
Carron partners with Palisades Ranch to provide the all-natural rotisserie chickens to his guests. When they are skewered on spinning long solid rods and roasting in a glass oven, the rotation cooks and self bastes the meat evenly in its own juices. When rows of chickens are cooked just right, they are taken off the spit and placed in a warming drawer for guests to purchase a whole chicken to eat in or to take home. The restaurant also offers half and a quarter of a chicken on a plate with two sides. Some of the sides include delicious cubes of roasted fingerling potatoes, shaved brussels sprouts, a farm green salad, and an ancient quinoa tabbouleh.
Carron also makes fresh sauces to enhance the chicken. You can select six different types including a Middle Eastern tahini sauce; 800 Degrees barbecue sauce; and my favorite, a light green Peruvian jalapeno-cilantro offering cool and earthy flavors to dip into with bite sized piece of chicken.
What makes 800 Degrees unique, is the specially designed wood-fired stone hearth ovens that burn almond wood. This offers a subtle, smoky taste to the pizzas and everything else cooked in the pizza oven.
The beauty of almond wood is that it burns extremely hot compared to other woods, allowing temperatures to reach 800 degrees, baking pizza to perfection in about 90 seconds.
For a unique dessert 800 Degrees offers a Nutella Calzone made with pizza dough filled with Nutella and dazzled with berries and a scoop of gelato. We really enjoyed a scoop of chocolate brownie gelato.
The interior of 800 Degrees Hollywood is completely redesign with new lighting and warm brown leather booths. On the side of the Sunset and Vine walkway, near The Hungry Cat, is an expanded outdoor patio decorated with Peroni Italian umbrellas as a canopy for a comfortable dining. Guests can sip cocktails, a glass of wine or cold beer inside or out.
Another spot for libations is hidden upstairs at 800 Degrees Hollywood. Beyond the restrooms is a stairway leading guests up to Carron’s newest venue Sunset & Vinyl. It’s a funky, retro cocktail den offering high fidelity record players and a case with a nice selection of vinyl records. Guests can bring their own collection, or search for their favorite music from the record.
Most of the diners inside 800 Degrees Hollywood don’t even know this exists, because there is no signage. Carron hired designer Richard DiSisto to provide the style and design of a speakeasy type of lounge. The lights are low in the inviting 1930s study accompanied by midcentury furniture and period knick knacks that include luggage, old school art pieces and light fixtures. “It’s a place where you can get away from the craziness and hubbub of Hollywood and have your own private sanctuary,” said Carron. The second night I visited, the upstairs lounge with low windows facing Vine, had a rock band celebrating with a round of drinks made by Carron’s long time friend mixologist Devon Espinosa. He was hired as the consulting beverage director for both 800 Degrees and Sunset & Vinyl. From tending bar at The Tasting Kitchen in Venice Beach, to being hand-picked by Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio to lead the bar program at Ink, Espinosa has created an interesting cocktail list with names of drinks that include Rich Mahogany made with Bourbon; Bubba’s Way made with Rye; and a tequila blanco base Off Sunset, mixed with grapefruit, jalapeño and a pomegranate juice based grenadine. There are about 13 varieties of beer available by draft, bottle and can. Five red wines are available by the glass and three white wines that include J. Lohr and True Myth.
Bar manager Brandon McCulloch utilizes the vintage record player resting on the long wood bar near the entrance. It’s better than a juke box, because you can adjust which song on the album you would like to hear, or walk away and listen to the entire side.
$$ 800 Degrees Hollywood is open daily from 11:00 am to 2:00 am. For more information, please visit http://www.800DegreesPizza.com or call 800 Degrees 1521 Vine St, (323)329-9656.
This review is featured in the Beverly Press on Nov. 2. 2017.