Skip to main content

World's best pizza not in Italy

By Chuck Thompson, CNN
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1714 GMT (0114 HKT)
In just his second year at the annual Pizza World Championship, Johnny Di Francesco took home the award for top margherita pizza.
In just his second year at the annual Pizza World Championship, Johnny Di Francesco took home the award for top margherita pizza.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An Australian chef has taken home top honors at the World Pizza Championship in Italy
  • Winning chef Johnny Di Francesco learned to make pizza in Naples, Italy
  • The winning pizza is made daily at Di Francesco's 400 Gradi restaurant in a Melbourne suburb

(CNN) -- Australian pizza is now officially the best in the world.

Well, sort of.

Judges at last weekend's Campionato Mondiale Della Pizza (Pizza World Championship) held in Parma, Italy, awarded the world's top margherita pizza title to Australian chef Johnny Di Francesco, owner of the 400 Gradi restaurant in Brunswick, a Melbourne suburb.

Di Francesco, 36, beat more than 600 competitors from 35 countries to take home the Specialita Traditionale Garantita pizza prize in the annual competition.

The win and subsequent publicity has made the small restaurant he owns in his hometown an overnight sensation.

"It's been an amazing reaction," Di Francesco tells CNN. "Honestly, I just went to Naples to do what I love. I didn't think it was going to make such a stir."

"A lot of people think it is easy to produce a margherita but it is one of the hardest (pizzas) to produce," Di Francesco told Australian website Good Food.

"With a lot of other pizzas it's easy to mask the flavor with toppings so you don't really get the flavor out of the dough. With a margherita there is no hiding anything that isn't right."

Competition rules are strict on what ingredients can top the dough on the margherita: only peeled tomatoes, certain types of mozzarella, garlic, olive oil, salt and fresh basil leaves are used.

The price on Di Francesco\'s margherita pizza (pictured) won\'t be going up anytime soon.
The price on Di Francesco's margherita pizza (pictured) won't be going up anytime soon.

Pizza the traditional way

Di Francesco, who says he's been making pizza since was 12 years old and studied pizza-making at the highly regarded Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana in Naples, Italy, calls himself a traditionalist when it comes to making pizza.

"It's an honor to be part of what (Verace Pizza Napoletana) does, striving to preserve a traditional way of making pizza the way they've done it in Naples for hundreds of years."

Although he's claimed the world title, Di Francesco has no plans to raise the A$20.50 ($19.30) price on the margherita pizza made daily at 400 Gradi.

"No, not at all," he says with a laugh.

Italian chefs weren't entirely shut out of the winner's circle at the competition.

As reported by Good Food, Italian chef Julius Scialpi took home the "classic pizza" prize for a pizza made with mozzarella, eggplant, nostrana, breadcrumbs and anchovies with burrata.

400 Gradi, 99 Lygon St., Brunswick East, Victoria, Australia; +61 (0)3 9380 2320; daily, midday-11 p.m.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
The guidebook asked staff, contributors and authors for well-known and lesser-known recommendations.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
An airport in Asia has stolen the crown from Manila's Ninoy Aquino, voted 'world's worst' three years in a row.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
It's time for a beef break, veal vacation, hog holiday or sinew sabbatical in a T-bone a-fide U.S. meatopolis.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
With so many awesome new attractions on the way, the next few years are going to be a roller coaster ride.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 0107 GMT (0907 HKT)
Scientists are busy surveying Southeast Asia's Coral Triangle, home to 75 percent of all known coral species.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1350 GMT (2150 HKT)
Bounce Below in Wales
Bounce Below transforms an abandoned slate mine into a surreal, springy world of fear and fun,
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2316 GMT (0716 HKT)
With chopsticks or fingers? Wasabi or no? A double Michelin-starred Tokyo chef sets the record straight and shows us the sushi way.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2224 GMT (0624 HKT)
Markthal Rotterdam foodhall in the Netherlands.
It may look like a gateway across time and space crafted with alien technology, but in reality it's a fruit and vegetable market.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
Based on the votes of over 330 industry experts, the 2014 winners include bars from 27 cities in 14 countries.
October 12, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Careening down an active volcano at 95 kph on a thin board? It happens only at Cerro Negro in Nicaragua.
ADVERTISEMENT