Fast-bake pizza: All of a sudden, everyone's buying those zillion-degree ovens and adapting Chipotle's quick-customization model to pizza. You step up to the counter, decide which ingredients you want piled on your 10-inch individual pizza -- it's all one price, usually $8 -- and wait just a few minutes for the baking. No sharing = no haggling over toppings.
It's a red-hot concept in Southern California, where a few franchises have been duking it out.
We're happy to report there's now a local contender in the contest. Scotts Valley entrepreneurs Jerry and Yovette Raymond have introduced Top This Pizza -- and they'll fire up the Italian oven this week (possibly as soon as today, Sept. 9) in Los Gatos.
Customers can select their dough (herb-infused traditional or whole wheat, both made fresh daily onsite, or a gluten-free), then have it topped mix-and-match style with their choice of five sauces (classic red, zesty red, basil pesto, savory barbecue, creamy garlic alfredo); five base cheeses (shredded, buffalo or vegan mozzarella, three-cheese blend, pepper jack); three cheeses for sprinkling on top (gorgonzola, feta, parmesan); eight meats (all the usuals, plus chorizo and grilled garlic chicken breast); 17 vegetables or herbs (including kalamata olives, banana peppers and arugula); and assorted "drizzles" (such as balsamic vinegar or buffalo wing sauce).
Someone did the math, and the number of different pizzas you could create tops 20,000. If you can't wrap your mind around all those choices, Top This has created nine specialty pizzas (one spicy number is dubbed Alejandra's Hot Mess) for the same price.
For their premier location, the Raymonds selected a spot in the Trader Joe's center on Los Gatos Boulevard that foodies will recall as the former home of Crimson bistro. (It's tucked in near the UPS store.) For a casual meal, you'll enjoy pretty chic surroundings: black granite counters, hammered copper panels and handcrafted butcher block tables.
An expansion is already in the works. Look for the second Top This Pizza to open in early 2014 in San Jose's Oakridge-Blossom Hill area. For the third location, they're scouting the San Jose-Santa Clara border.
Details: Open daily from 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. 15466 Los Gatos Blvd., Los Gatos.http://TopThisPizzaCo.com.
Across the valley, in North San Jose, one of those SoCal chains has planted its first Bay Area flag. At Pieology Pizzeria, which just opened at Brokaw Commons, the concept is similar but the choices differ, naturally. Here you can choose from three sauces (red, olive oil, herb butter); four cheeses (mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, gorgonzola); 17 toppings (the usuals, plus artichokes, fresh basil, cilantro, garlic); and six "after bakes" (roasted red peppers, bbq sauce, dollops of red sauce).
Details: Open at 11 a.m. daily at 1095 E. Brokaw Road, San Jose. 408-392-9271;http://pieology.com.
Best ribs: Barbecue teams from across the nation, as well as half a million 'cue fans, showed up in Sparks, Nev., for the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off over the Labor Day weekend. If you missed it, some of those winning ribs aren't far away. A Bay Area team -- Kinder's Custom Meats, based in Concord -- won third place in the competition. Kinder's now has 16 locations in the East Bay, including Walnut Creek, Danville, Brentwood and Hercules. Top honors went to Famous Dave's BBQ, which is based in Minnesota but which has several restaurants this region, including San Jose, Gilroy, Tracy -- and the newest, Hayward, near Southland Mall.
Send South Bay, Peninsula dining tips to Linda Zavoral, email@example.com.