Reporter's Notebook

Fast-casual 800 Degrees is coming to pizza capital

 

The fast-casual pizza trend is reaching the pizza capital of the nation.

Not trying to revive any Jon Stewart-style-foaming-at-the-mouth debate here, Chicago fans, but I think we can all agree I’m talking about New York.

The Los Angeles-born concept 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria said Wednesday it has raised financing to build its first New York City location, scheduled to open in 2014.

The first will be a flagship in “NoMad,” a reference to a neighborhood north of Madison Square Park, with four more to follow in the various boroughs.

The company won’t say how much in funding has been raised, or where the funding comes from. At least, not yet. But they will be company-owned restaurants. Unlike the many other fast-casual pizza chain contenders, 800 Degrees isn’t a franchise brand.

Earlier this year, 800 Degrees received a $7 million injection in minority equity financing from an unnamed “fan” to accelerate growth.

The original 800 Degrees opened in Los Angeles’ Westwood neighborhood, near UCLA, in 2012, and was such a hit, the restaurant has expanded to add a to-go outlet next door. A second unit has opened at Los Angeles International Airport in partnership with HMS Host, and a third is scheduled to open in Santa Monica, Calif., next month, and in Pasadena, Calif., next year. Las Vegas is also in the works.

The company is scouting for more locations in Southern California and, now, New York.

The build-your-own pizza concept was co-created by former Michael Mina chef Anthony Carron, along with Adam Fleischman, founder and chief executive of the Umami Restaurant Group known for its Umami Burger chain. Also a partner is restaurateur Allen Ravert.

Others within the increasingly crowded fast-casual pizza niche are also heading to New York. Custom Fuel Pizza, which debuted in Washington, D.C. in August, has a unit under construction in Harlem. Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza, based in Pasadena, has two franchise locations scheduled to open on Long Island in 2014 and deals in Queens and White Plains.

New Yorkers have strong opinions about what makes for a good pie, and, of course, it has been noted that (cue music) if you can make in here, you can make it anywhere.

Carron believes the pizza capital has something to learn from California.

“New Yorkers have an ingrained pizza culture, but we see an opportunity,” Carron said. “There are a lot of $1 slice joints and expensive boutique pizzerias. We have an unusual mix of authentic Neapolitan pizza with fresh, amazing ingredients, fast service and an incredible price for the quality. We believe 800 degrees will be as big a hit in New York as it has been in California.”

And, in what could be seen as a fair trade, Brooklyn-born Grimaldi’s Pizzeria is finally reaching California, with its first unit scheduled to open in the Los Angeles area in February. The chain has 31 locations across the U.S.

Since they say the secret to a proper New York crust is in the water, however, Grimaldi’s is hiring a chemist to mimic the exact mineral content and composition of New York water to make the dough in California.

 

 

 

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