A calzone from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
A sangria from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
The Pirelli stuffed bread from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
Meatball appetizer from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
Apple pizza from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
The Pomodoro Pizza from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
The Quattro Formaggi Pizza from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
The BLT pizza from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
The Mista Salad from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
Pesto pasta from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
The Pane Pazzo cheese bread from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
The Funghi Pizza from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
The Formaggio sandwich from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
The Truffle Gelato from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza at Dupont and Lima roads.
Sunday, August 20, 2017 1:00 am
Pizza place still shines with what it does best
RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette
Out of a possible five
When 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza opened eight years ago at Dupont and Lima roads, wood-fired pizza was a novelty in Fort Wayne.
With its unique refractory oven that could crank out the 12-inch pizzas quickly thanks to its high temperatures, the pizza game changed forever in the Summit City.
These days, 800 Degrees – which was so popular that a second location quickly opened on Illinois Road – has plenty of competition.
That competition hasn't forced the original to change much over the years, however. I guess if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
My recent visits to the original were about as opposite as one could have, and on one night there was a lot that needed fixing. Overall, the pizza was the star, which should come as no surprise, but even it was inconsistent.
My first tastes, which were not pizzas, were fabulous. Two were so awesome that it will be hard to pick which one I order next time.
The Pirelli was a big ring of pizza dough stuffed with mozzarella and a pool of marinara topped with shredded Parmesan and fresh parsley bubbling in the center. It was like a sausage roll sans sausage. And did I mention that crust is brushed with a lot of butter that oozes all over the plate along with the gooey cheese that escapes from its crusty tomb as soon as you cut into it?
The Pane Pazzo is much simpler. There was no oozing or bubbling, but it was still a winner. It was basically a perfectly fired pizza crust – crunchy on the bottom with just the right chewiness – with olive oil instead of marinara, garlic roasted in that oven, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and fresh parsley. It was cheese bread done like all cheese breads should be done.
The best pizzas all came during the same visit I had the Pane Pazzo and they were the best because their crusts also had the right texture and touch of char from the oven.
My favorite, the Pomodoro, had everything I like on a wood-fired pizza. It, too, had an olive oil base but also had fresh, ripe, sweet, little grape tomatoes, so I did not miss the marinara at all. What really lifted it was the globs of creamy, sharp ricotta cheese that joined mozzarella on top. It was magnifique.
I also loved the BLT pizza and fresh tomatoes deserved the credit here as well. These tomatoes were sliced and joined by perfectly cooked bacon, a garlic aioli, mozzarella and a blend of greens, which included some vibrant baby selections and crunchy romaine.
The greens made salad a wise choice at 800 Degrees.
The Mista is one of the best salads around with those baby greens, tomatoes, onions, carrots, cucumber, shaved fennel and a ton of nicely roasted pine nuts. With a rice-wine vinaigrette and a little salt and pepper, this salad is always a winner.
The featured Roasted Butternut Squash Salad was worth permanent menu status as its creamy roasted squash, with its buttery texture and hearty almost baked potato-like flavor, was perfectly accented by peppery arugula, funky, creamy goat cheese and sweet candied pecans.
Another tweak I would make to the menu centered around the tasty meatball appetizer, which was also a feature. Not only were they enjoyable as a starter – lightly sauced, garnished with red onions, toasted almonds, basil and Parmesan, and served with toasty bread – I think they would be marvelous on a pizza.
Make that happen, 800 Degrees.
The Funghi was the best pizza I had during my not-so-stellar visit. It had a ton of mushrooms, and they weren't boring buttons or the nearly as commonplace portobellos; they were crimini, oyster and shitake. They gave off a ton of umami flavor after roasting in the oven, and there was not too much cheese, which was nice, so they stood front and center.
The crust on this pizza was not crispy; it flopped around like a noodle, and its edge was pale instead of having a little wood-fired char. It was just as flaccid and pale on the Quattro Formaggi pie, which was topped with mozzarella, fontina, provolone and Gorgonzola cheese along with fresh marjoram.
There also was not enough cheese for a pizza that boasts so many cheeses, and I was underwhelmed.
None of the non-pizza dishes I tried made an impact either. The Pesto Pasta was simply a reminder to never pass on the pizza. The calzone was scantly filled and though the smoked mozzarella inside was nice, I would pass next time. The same smoked cheese was too prominent in the Formaggio sandwich, which also had Swiss and provolone that I could not even detect.
The desserts had plenty of impact, and I will probably get the Truffle Gelato every time I visit.
This chocolaty gem was the size and shape of a small muffin and had vanilla gelato in the center. It was dusted with cocoa powder and rolled in crushed hazelnuts. The Apple Pizza was also tasty with its poached apples and two heaping scoops of vanilla gelato. It was way better than the apple pizzas you find at a chain pizza buffet, but the Truffle Gelato was clearly the best choice.
My pizza crusts weren't the only things distinctly different during my visits to 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza. The service could not have been on more opposite ends.
A sign over the cash register makes you think you have to order and pay first. But you can run a tab which prevents having to order and pay twice if you forget to order something, need another glass of sangria – 800 Degrees makes an excellent one – or decide you want that gelato for dessert.
And the night I did that, my service was outstanding. Not only did my courses arrive staggered properly, but I was checked on several times to make sure everything was OK. I felt like I was actually being waited on.
When I ordered and paid ahead, the pizzas came right after the appetizers, I was never checked on and felt like I might as well have carried out. The worst part? I had to tip based on service I had not yet received and was generous.
Restaurant: 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza
Address: 10020 Lima Road
Hours: 4 to 9:30 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Beer and wine
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Pane Pazzo ($7.50), Pirelli ($8.50), Mista ($8.75), meatballs ($10.50), squash salad ($7), calzone ($7.50), Formaggio ($8), pasta ($9.25), Funghi ($11), Quattro Formaggi ($12), Pomodoro ($10), BLT ($11.50), apple pizza ($7), gelato truffle ($6)
Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.