“I think of dieting, then I eat pizza” – Lara Stone
As a general rule of dining, I do not get my hopes up. Or at the very least I try to avoid entering a restaurant with high expectations. Heralded as the world’s best margherita, ever-lively 400 Gradi has definitely benefited from the publicity. We entered on a Saturday, without a booking and with crossed-fingers. We soon were offered a seat at the bar area. We ordered a zucchini flower stuffed with feta to share. A crispy, delectably crunchy morsel arrived with a centre filled with dense, soft feta cheese. I could probably have devoured 30 of these tasty flowers.
400 Gradi uses Sam Marzano tomatoes for their pizza, a tomato that was labelled “the most important industrial tomato of the 20th century”. Sam Marzano tomatoes are stronger, sweeter and less acidic – making them the perfect contender for the perfect pizza.
Caserta ; San Marzano tomato, buffalo, mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, -18 months, and a foothill of rocket. The crust was an exquisitely chewy experience. The thin base, however, amassed into a soft, soggy, hot mess. This is the type of pizza that required the use of a fork and a knife. The toppings were expectedly prime quality, with the 18 month thinly sliced prosciutto having a robust, sharp taste that merely comes from being skilfully aged and the buffalo and mozzarella cheeses pleasantly adding chewiness without being overshadowing.
Capricciosa San Marzano tomato, Fior di latte, prosciutto cotto (leg ham), mushrooms, artichokes and olives. The Capricciosa base had lost all form due to the creamy Fior di latte meddling in with the sweet San Marzano tomato base. The scattered olives and hints of zingy artichoke balanced the generous shavings of primo leg ham. The toppings were superb and the only hindrance was that they weren’t perched onto a crispier thin base, instead becoming a homogenous jumble of base and topping by the end of the meal.
As we were about to leave, multiple pizza chefs from the kitchen filed in performing physics-defying dough tricks to the apparent glee of everyone in the restaurant. For about 10 minutes there was a period of clapping, cheering and dough stunts. A surprisingly, perplexing and enjoyable bonus.
400 Gradi has an extensive drink selection, with J opting for the spritzer special of the day and myself a Prosecco. Both being very uncharacteristic choices to our usual rouge vino, we both enjoyed the lightness of the drinks. It would be worthwhile visiting 400 Gradi for a cheeky drink after work and sharing a pizza by the bar.
I did enjoy my meal at 400 Gradi. Perhaps living in Carlton has caused me to become a pizza snob, but the winner of the world’s best left a lot to be desired. For the price point and the quality, I honestly do believe there are better contenders to cure a hunger for a slice of Italy.