Last week I got to eat at 400 Gradi in Melbourne’s Crown Hotel, famous for its generally good Italian food and one pizza in particular.
As the restaurant’s website will tell you, 400 Gradi’s chef, Johnny Di Francesco is the first Australian ever trained in Naples to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana rules and was crowned the best in the world at The 2014 World Pizza Championships in Parma. Di Francesco has since opened an overseas branch in Bahrain, and has just announced he will expand to Kuwait, Adelaide, Auckland and Texas before the end of the year. The man obviously likes being busy.
But Melbourne is where it started and I was happy for the opportunity to see if the food stacked up to the hype.
I lost count how many courses we had for lunch but for a company of about 15 of us, many from out of town, Gradi didn’t disappoint. Entrees through to mains and desserts were served and met with approving nods from the guests. But Gradi is famous for one particular dish. (That is, if you can call pizza a dish).
Lunch at 400 Gradi
It was the humble Margherita that launched Di Francesco into gastronomic stardom. This pizza requiring the most basic of ingredients but that so many get wrong. I remember growing up in my ignorance thinking why would anyone order the Margherita when you can have meat lovers, Hawaiian and other options available? The Margherita pizzas we had access to were so bleh. It wasn’t until my DH and I visited Barcelona (the closest we got to Italy) more than ten years ago that we had one bite from a simple roadside pizza cart and “saw the light”. Finally, we understood and at the same time, were confounded. How does anything so simple taste so good?
Unfortunately it took us many years to experience anything close, only stumbling on a proper Margherita pizza when it happened to be served in a restaurant near the house we moved into. So this is the second part of my pizza revelation story: The Margherita near our house, tastes exactly the same as the one served at 400 Gradi. It’s also a few dollars cheaper than Gradi at Crown but you do have to put up with inconsistencies sometimes with overly burnt edges BUT it tastes identical.
So I’m very happy. I’ve tasted the best pizza in the world and I don’t even have to travel to the city to get it. The restaurant I speak of is called The Last Piece and I cannot resist but borrow a saying from one of their Instagram posts which had a sign that whimsically declared, You stole a pizza my heart.
Gradi’s Margherita pizza on the right. Pear salad on the left in case you were wondering.
This writer was a guest of Gold Coast Business Events at AIME 2018. All views are her own.