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Review: 1000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria is hot and fast, but not always perfect

Review: 1000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria is hot and fast, but not always perfect

From the Pizza series
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If speed is the main selling point at 1000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria — “cooks fresh in two minutes” is their oft-repeated slogan — then I’ll consider it a success.

I did get my pizza and wings lightning fast during two recent visits, but speed isn’t the only measure of a good restaurant, at least in my book.

The pizza at this new fast-casual spot is serviceable and mostly better than the pizza from big delivery chains, like Domino’s or Pizza Hut. But each time, I wished for more of what’s pictured on the restaurant’s website — deeply browned crust with lots of bubbles — and I did not always get it.

1000 Degrees has a Chipotle-style setup. Diners choose their food at a counter and watch an employee make their pizza, salad or Buffalo wings to order. A shiny oven boasts the ultra-hot temperature, and staff members use an oversized paddle to load the oven’s conveyor belt with dishes. A few minutes later, the order gets delivered to the table.

Derek Benson-Williams, the Sioux City, Iowa-based regional manager of the Omaha location, said they knew how competitive the Omaha market for pizza was when they decided to open a location near 180th and Q Streets last fall and a second, in Elkhorn, last week.

He said there are a few things that set 1000 Degrees apart. It’s a Neapolitan-style joint, he said, unlike other fast-casual spots in Omaha, including Toppers, Uncle Maddio’s and My Pie. Diners can create their own pizza for the same price as one of the house signature pies; there’s no upcharge for choosing your own ingredients. And then there’s the speed.

“Other places serve in five minutes. We serve in two,” he said.

The price is right. A personal sized pizza with one of the house “classic” topping combinations or a combination of your choice will set you back $8.95. Gluten-free crust is a buck more. Bigger pies, sized to share, run $16.95.

I tried three of the signature pies, and the classic margherita was the best. The pie arrived coated in an acidic tomato sauce with plenty of fresh mozzarella and thinly cut basil. I could have done without the sprinkle of dried oregano, a strange pairing with the fresh basil, and I’d ask for it to be left off next time. I also liked the White Out, which came with olive oil, shredded mozzarella, Parmesan, fresh mushrooms and plenty of garlic. The toppings seemed high quality and fresh. It was the crust that could have used some improvement.

Both times, the edges were paler than I prefer, and in the case of the margherita, the center of the pie got floppy under the weight of sauce. The center was better on the white pie because of its lighter olive oil base.

I’m a thin-crust pizza fan by nature, but for those who like a “hand-tossed,” breadier crust, the shop serves an oblong Roman style. I tried it as a Meatza topped with marinara, shredded mozzarella, pepperoni, bacon, Italian sausage and crumbled meatballs. Fennel-heavy chunks of sausage dominated, though the smoky bacon still came through. The Roman crust had a crispy bottom and darker edge; the thinner crust would benefit from both those attributes.

Side salads are basic. Diners get the choice of either spinach or iceberg lettuce and a handful of toppings. The salad’s vegetables were fresh, though it wasn’t overly flavorful. There’s a selection of house salads with more toppings and protein options.

The big surprise at 1000 Degrees was a half dozen Buffalo wings. Admittedly, I went into the basket with low expectations, but found the meaty chicken surprisingly flavorful and juicy and the exterior pleasantly crispy. I got the classic Buffalo sauce — there are a number of other options, including pesto and honey garlic. Buffalo here packed a spicy kick, and I think even the biggest wing purist would find little to complain about.

Benson-Williams said the restaurant has gotten much positive feedback on its wings, surely a good sign for a spot in Millard, where good wings abound.

1000 Degrees is, I think, aiming for a quick-casual family crowd, and they’ve found enough success locally to have opened that second location. Benson-Williams said the neighborhoods they’ve targeted don’t have many similar dining spots, and I agree.

1000 Degrees is fast and affordable, and there’s certainly a market for it. I’d order the wings again, no doubt. What remains to be seen, though, is if its not-always-perfect pizza can stand up to our city’s many established favorites.

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