99 Lygon Street
Brunswick East VIC 3057
+61 3 9380 2320
A few months ago, my other half Bean made a passing comment about how it was impossible to get amazing pizzas in Sydney. I must admit that I’m not too familiar with the Sydney pizza scene (and we’re not talking about that SBS comedy, too) so I can’t confirm either way. In saying that though, I haven’t had an excellent pizza in Sydney myself. And of the few places I’ve been to that served pizza, they were unremarkable, too doughy (a la Anglo-Italian style) or just plain sucked.
During one of our Melbourne visits, Bean wanted to try some Melbourne pizza and I wanted to try a place I hadn’t been before. Enter 400 Gradi and enter our friends Aaron and Cathy who were also keen to join us for some pizza after an afternoon at the NGV. 400 Gradi has been around for quite some time but I never got around to trying it while I was living in Melbourne. Since my departure from the southern capital, 400 Gradi has since expanded from one single restaurant in Brunswick to venues at Crown Casino and in Essendon.
Melburnians love 400 Gradi. Owner and pizzaiolo Johnny Di Francesco made a margheirta pizza at the World Pizza Championships in Parma in 2014 and won the specialita traditionale garanita (STG) prize. Naturally, his win sent Melbourne’s media delirious and so they were quick to be all ‘world’s best pizza’ and ‘hashtag Melbourne pride’ for the next few months after that. 400 Gradi’s reputation has having the world’s best pizza remains, though I don’t necessarily agree. Not that I’ve tried every single pizza in the world but I still think Emma Pizzeria in Rome lead the way. Regardless of whether or not you think 400 Gradi’s pizzas are the best in the world, they’re still pretty good. And they certainly beat any pizza I’ve had in Sydney (though I’m happy to be proven wrong, Sydneysiders).
400 gradi means ‘400 degrees’, referring to how hot a proper wood fire oven must be for the pizzas to get their thin, soft crust that’s charred in spots after being in there for a short stint (usually 60-90 seconds). We ordered two of 400 Gradi’s pizzas: their Caserta and Diavola.
Excuse the terrible photo – we were sitting in a very dark corner and gone are the days where I’d carry a DSLR. Both pizzas were topped with San Marzano tomato, rocket and fior di latte; the Diavola had slices of hot salami (‘hot salami very very hot!’ warned the menu) while the Caserta came with 20-month-old prosciutto di Parma. A few people have said 400 Gradi’s pizzas are expensive. Sure, they’re not massively cheap but then again, they’re definitely not Domino’s or Pizza Hut so I thought the prices weren’t too bad, though they were pushing it a bit. We all enjoyed the pizzas, especially their thin and pillowy crusts and appreciated the effortless melding of toppings that came in generous proportions.
We also ordered a serving of pappardelle with slow cooked lamb ragu to share. I may have thought the pizza prices were justified but I honestly can’t say the same about the pastas. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the pappardelle was perfectly cooked and the lamb ragu was divine but seriously, that little blob on the bottom plate was about as much as each of us could get. I dare say that even I ordered this dish for myself, I’d still be hungry.
I haven’t been back to 400 Gradi as I’ve heard they’ve gone slightly downhill after their expansion. I don’t doubt they still do an excellent pizza though and I’d be more than happy to visit for seconds – but will most likely skip the pasta.