FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The California Pizza Kitchen (207 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (213) 272-7878) is a lot farther from Emilio's than the miles would lead you to believe. These two restaurants are worlds apart; the Pizza Kitchen is not warm, and although they certainly do treat you right, it's not remotely Italian. For what they serve in this cool modern environment with its open kitchen is pizza with a distinctly American accent. Can you imagine any real Italian sitting down to a pizza topped with barbecue chicken?
The CPK is a part of the new American phenomenon--"gourmet fast food." Gourmet because only the most esoteric ingredients go on the pizzas--marinated shrimp, fresh mint and lime, or rabbit sausage or greens and pancetta . Fast because the wood-burning ovens can produce a pizza in three minutes. The place seems born to be cloned. Says consultant Ed LaDou: "We are at the threshold of a new epoch in pizza dining, an epoch that will transform convention into invention and open up an infinite spectrum of pizza possibilities."