Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street,
Everyone knows 400 Gradi. It skyrocketed to fame overnight by snatching the award of Best Pizza in the World from 600 other competitors, and in Italy no less. And next thing I know, they’ve opened up a huge 200-seater branch in Crown, with another to come in Essendon. Choosing not to challenge the queues at the original location, we made for the crown branch instead.
Gradi Crown is a pizzeria, with a pair of bronzed wood-fire ovens to show for it. But instead of the warm intimacy of nonna’s kitchen, this is set up like fine dining, complete with the unabashed glamour of crown. The effect was somewhat ruined by the fact that service was scattered and disjointed, though in all fairness they had only been open for less than a week at this point, and I’ve no doubt that this is a problem that will be fixed with time.
Anyway. Despite having arrived just past 6 on Wednesday, the only 2 seater available was in the pizzeria section of the restaurant, under the proviso that we’ll be out within the hour. We were seated swiftly, wine lists were handed out, and pizzas were promised to be in our mouths within 15 minutes of ordering (my words not theirs).
Given the large deli section we walked past on our way in, we couldn’t resist starting our meal off with a smorgasbord of cheeses and meats. I like the option of choosing your serving size, giving us the opportunity to try a wider variety of smoked, cured, and aged goods, all plated up on a brittle lavosh cracker drizzled in rosemary oil.
|Bufaletto (Taleggio) ($8.5, 25g)|
The Bufaletto (Taleggio) ($8.5, 25g) was an easy choice for me, being extremely fond of soft white cheeses. It was creamy and velvety, with the distinctly fruity taste characteristic of taleggio cheese, and a hint of ripe mustiness at the end.
|Asiago ($5, 25g)|
The Asiago ($5, 25g) was cut from a different block of cheese entirely – literally and metaphorically. Sweet and waxy, but surprisingly mild, it was a lot mellower than its texture would suggest.
|Proscuitto Cotto d'Abruzzo ($5, 25g)|
The Proscuitto Cotto d’Abruzzo ($5, 25g) was less than impressive. Not only did it look like ham, but it didn’t taste much different either, except perhaps with longer fibres. For those who were expecting fat-streaked Italian prosciutto, don’t be fooled!
|NdujaCalabra ($4.5, 25g)|
The NdujaCalabra ($4.5, 25g) was a foray into unfamiliar culinary territory. During my research I had confirmed that it was a sausage, but I failed to realise that it was in fact a spreadable sausage. Thus, we found ourselves served with pieces of crusty bread, smeared with a fiery-looking paste. And it was indeed spicy as the waiter had warned, tasting of smoke, pork fat, and chilli peppers.
|Margherita Verace ($21)|
But really, we were here for the best pizza in the world, and first impressions were good indeed. The Margherita Verace ($21) was hands-down the most delicious pizza I’ve ever been lucky enough to eat, the creamy pockets of buffalo mozzarella melting into the tomato sugo, sun-ripened to equal measures of sweetness of acidity.
|Margherita Verace ($21)|
And the base was pure magic. Despite being just millimetres thick and having sat around waiting for me to take photos, the base still managed to be both crisp yet pliant. The experience culminated at the burnished, puffy crust, and one bite took me straight through the crisp exterior to the fluffy, chewy middle, flavoured with just a dash of salt. It was sheer perfection.
|Verdure Grigliate ($13)|
It’s a shame I couldn’t say the same about the Verdure Grigliate ($13), aka roast vegetables. Though the freshness of the fennel and baby carrots weren’t to be faulted, their sweetness brought out by a scattering of sea salt, the serving size was beyond absurd. It should be glad that the pizza was around to cover its buttocks.
My meal actually brought to mind one I had some time back at DOC. But whereas at DOC I hated the pizza and adored the sides, it was the opposite case with Gradi. The deli selection was average, the roast vegetables were atrocious, but the pizza shone brightly enough to cast its glow over the entire meal. I will definitely come back, especially given how convenient the location is, but you’ll never see me with anything that isn’t pizza, that’s for sure.
Rating: 12/20 – overall.
Rating: 15.5/20 – pizza only.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.