Lots of pizzerias claim to sell the best pizzas. But only 400 Gradi can truly claim the title. In 2014 pizzaiolo-patron Johnny Di Francesco won grand prize at the Campionato Mondiale della Pizza – or “World’s Best Pizza awards” – held in Italy, making him (and his margherita) officially the best.
“Lots of people find margheritas boring,” says Di Francesco, “but when it’s made with perfection, you see why it’s so amazing.” Although his award-winning margherita draws a crowd, a lot of 400 Gradi’s customers come in asking for a pizza with “various types of meat on it”. Which is why he’s looking to Australian traditions and introducing his version of a meat lover’s. The Maialina (meaning piglet in Italian) will be available from Wednesday July 27, but there’s a catch: you have to be in on a secret to order it, and it’s only available via Deliveroo.
Di Francesco started making pizzas when he was 12 years old and opened his first pizzeria before he turned 20. But it wasn’t until he went to work and study at the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana in Naples a few years ago that he learned the secret to perfect pizza.
It’s the dough. But it’s about more than just the quality of flour, water and yeast. The most important elements are the time and patience it takes to transform these simple ingredients into something spectacular.
“There are two processes that happen when you make pizza dough,” says Di Francesco. “There’s the rising caused by the yeast, but there’s also a process we don’t see, and that’s the maturing process.”
Maturation can take up to 24 hours, Di Francesco says, so it’s crucial your pizza dough rises slowly. If you add too much yeast, the dough will rise too quickly. “A lot of people freak out when they see my recipes because I use such a tiny amount of yeast,” Di Francesco says, “but it’s important that the yeast works as slowly as possible. The more yeast you use, the faster your dough will rise.” The dough at 400 Gradi matures and proves for at least 24 hours, but more often up to 36 hours.
For this same reason, Di Francesco doesn’t use any sugar in his dough. “Sugar accelerates the yeast, so it accelerates the rising process,” he says, “and again, you risk missing out on that maturation process.”
Next it’s about the quality of the toppings. “I always say to people, ‘If you’re going to put something on your pizza, use the best’. The best tomatoes, the best mozzarella, the best olive oil. You want it to count.” It’ll be the same with the Maialina. It’s inspired by a traditional Australian meat lover’s, but there’s little resemblance. Gone is the shredded bacon, cheap ham and barbeque sauce. The Maialina instead uses tomato, mozzarella, prosciutto cotto, premium salami and pork sausage. It bends Di Francesco’s no-more-than-three-toppings rule, but he thinks people are going to love it. “We’ve revolutionised the meat lover’s,” he jokes.
Di Franceso’s pizzas are cooked in a 400-degree oven for 90 seconds – that’s all it takes for the base to blister and char, and the toppings to warm and melt. When you order via Deliveroo, the pizzas don’t go into the oven until the rider arrives. “They go straight from the oven into their delivery bag, so they’re as fresh as possible,” says Di Francesco. “I can tell you, if you love meat, you’re going to absolutely love this pizza.”
400 Gradi’s Mailalina pizza is available until Wednesday August 17, only via Deliveroo.
This article is presented in partnership with Deliveroo.