It’s unfortunately not uncommon to have an otherwise great meal marred by poor service. But that’s not something that happens frequently in a place with counter service. Let’s face it: If you’re in a fast-food joint, your service expectations aren’t usually all that high. Monte Carlo’s new build-your-own pizza place 800 Degrees is a bit different, however. When the media were invited in for a sneak preview, I was quite impressed. The ingredients were all top-notch. And with the owner walking us through the ordering process, everything proceeded quite smoothly. I sampled six or seven pizzas, and they were all delicious.
So when my wife and I returned a few weeks later, I had high hopes. What I got, however, was a rather frustrating experience.
The concept behind 800 Degrees is pretty straightforward. You can build your own pizza from scratch, or order one of several specialty pies. If you design your meal yourself, you start with one of four classics. The Margherita is your basic crushed tomato, mozzarella, Parmigiano Romano, olive oil and basil. There’s also a white pie made without tomatoes, a marinara version that comes without cheese and a verde pizza with pine nut-basil pesto. From there, you can choose from more than 40 meats, cheeses and vegetable toppings.
The chef has also created 15 specialty pies. You can get something simple—say, sausage and peppers with caramelized onions—or something fancier, such as the Vongole (clams, pecorino, garlic, cracked pepper and parsley) or Tropicale (roasted pineapple, ham and jalapeños).
I’ve yet to have a pie here I didn’t like. And while a side order of two small meatballs was a little pricey at $7, it was delicious. But I find the ordering process to be a giant pain in the ass. It’s done like an assembly line starting near the door, and continues as your pizza gets closer to the oven. As you pass the toppings, you tell the person at that station what you want. Sounds simple, right? It should be. But the process is complicated by some pretty poor labeling.
Base pizzas and specialty pies are listed on the wall. But by the time you get to the first ordering station, you really haven’t been in a position to read all of them. So you may have to move forward to read, then come back to place your order. Moreover, none of the toppings are labeled. So when you get to that area, you may find yourself stuck behind someone trying to differentiate between soppressata, prosciutto di Parma and rosemary ham. To make matters worse, the sign on the wall lists all toppings as costing $1.50 (which is already a little steep for a smattering of capers), but a handful are actually twice that price. All of these problems could easily be rectified if the takeout menus—which list all of the toppings and the correct price for each—were available near the door. Instead, however, they’re kept near the end of the line.
Once your pizza hits the oven, there’s even more confusion, because servers don’t deliver them to your table. Instead, you pick them up from a spot near the end of the line, which can cause another traffic jam on a busy day. Finally, even taking home leftovers is a nuisance, thanks to tiny takeout boxes that generally only fit a single slice.
While each of my individual complaints is fairly minor, together they manage to mar an otherwise tasty meal. I’d be tempted to chalk them up to the newness of the restaurant. But the owner already has three other locations in California, so he should have had most of the bugs worked out before hitting the Strip. I just hope he’s open to constructive criticism.
Al’s Menu Picks
sausage and peppers pizzas ($12.15)
In Monte Carlo, 702-730-6800. Open for lunch and dinner daily, 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Dinner for two, $20-$40.