West LA Foodie Roundup and Review – April 2014

It’s been an exciting month for the upscale fast-casual dining set here on the Westside. Since our last update, we’ve heard of Sunny Spot launching their new Monday Night Sliders menu, the much-anticipated re-opening of the Doughroom in Palms, and Phorage’s recent sucess, among other enticing developments.

Prevalent among all these openings and market entries lately is the expansion, bustle, and jockeying of the artisan pizza niche market. After 800 Degrees’s disruption over a year ago of CPK and their ilk, a number of copycat alternatives have popped up, like Blaze Pizza, Project Pie, PizzaRev, and more. Each has their own take on this new breed of fast-casual, conveyer-belt-style pizza, whether it be a crispier crust, tangier sauce, or truffle cheeses, but each chain is aiming and hoping to be the new Subway of pizza.

Well earlier this month we had some more news in this space that is sure to shake up the competition. 800 Degrees and Blaze (and their associated investors, including Maria Shriver and LeBron James) may hope with their dominant market share and strong positive buzz to be the Subway of pizza, but there’s a new, 800-pound gorilla of a pizzamaker in the room:

 

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That’s right, Subway is the new Subway of pizza.

The concept is enticing both for my taste buds and my wallet (two Flatizzas for $5, for a limited time, is just about as good a deal as anything I can think of), so I decided to pop on by my local Subway and try this exciting new selection.

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My first impression upon getting in line and ordering was how well prepared Subway has been to enter the pizza-making business. It’s like their business model has been screaming, “Mamma mia, that’s a spicy pizza!” and they just barely started listening to those tangy screams. When you get a subway sandwich, you pick your bread, then your meat, then your cheese, then you get it toasted, then you add veggies and sauce.

I ordered two different flatizzas – one cheese and one Italian meats – to fully enjoy the variety of flavors on the menu. Since the assembly process for pizzas is a little different, starting with sauce, then cheese, then meats and veggies, then the toaster oven, my little pizzas got shuffled from one end of the assembly line to the other about five times. Ingeniously, this infused the flatbread crust with the hand-tossed texture I have come to expect from other fast-casual pizza chains, and the traces of rubber in the flatbread helped protect my pizza from any potential shocks or traumas that could have come from being jostled about so much. Since I came during the lunch rush, my Sandwich Artist (or, should I say, Pizza Artisan?) was assertive in placing herself where she needed to be to get to the salami and olives, other people’s sandwiches be damned. This pivot of emphasizing pizzas over boring Subway Clubs can only be awarded bonus points, in my book.

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When my pizzas were done, they were lovingly placed in Flatizza custom packaging, as shown above, and then tossed haphazardly into a plastic Subway bag. This novel packaging process not only protected my pizza from the elements, but absorbed excess grease, cheese, and toppings that I really didn’t need. This is a step that the other players in fast-casual pizza haven’t yet taken, but they probably should. In this day and age, we need all the help we can get to avoid excess calories, and my hat is off to Subway for developing this new technology.

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In summary, Subway is a force to be reckoned with on the West LA pizza scene, and a highly qualified suitor for your lunchtime allegiances. 800 Degrees and Blaze must be shaking in their Italian boots, but are hopefully developing new strategies to match Subway’s quality product and innovations. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to be in the bathroom for the next 45 minutes.

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