From the outside, 400 Gradi looks like nothing special. Just another pizza restaurant down the Brunswick-end of Lygon Street churning out Italian food? Best keep that opinion to yourself, otherwise you'll be missing out on some of the city's — and in fact, the world's — best pizza.
Soft lighting and dark features make 400 Gradi (Italian for '400 degrees', the ideal temperature at which pizza should be cooked) the kind of spot that calls you for dinner on a rainy night. You know the kind we mean, too: the type you hanker for in the middle of a dreary Melbourne winter, whilst the rest of your friends are off holidaying in the sunny Mediterranean. After owner Johnny Di Francesco's recent win at the World Pizza Championships though, where 400 Gradi's margherita ($20.50) was awarded first prize, you can forget about your friends — you've got the gold standard right on your doorstep.
400 Gradi's quality is due to the fact that it is one of only four Melbourne pizzerias to be a member of the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association. Strict guidelines on ingredients — including the use of '00' flour — means that this pizzeria's game is absolute A-grade. Light, yeasty and lightly charcoaled in taste, each base is cooked to perfection within 90 seconds, making for a menu that is faultless, whatever your inclination. Aside from the margherita, which is the pizzeria's most popular item, the Caserta, featuring san marzano tomato, buffalo mozzarella, rocket and prosciutto di parma ($24.5), is also a close favourite.
We dare say you are doing yourself an injustice should you visit 400 Gradi and not sample the pizza. However, for those so inclined, a number of seconds are equally as impressive, including the pappardelle with pancetta, peas, fresh herbs, chilli and parmesan ($23). Of course, Italians are experts at primi. We recommend the arancini ($13) and olive ascolane ($12): green olives filled with veal, crumbed and shallow fried. A terrific combination.
400 Gradi proves that a thoughtful approach to food brings the best results. Nothing less than delicious.