Skip to main content

World's best pizza not in Italy

By Chuck Thompson, CNN
updated 1:14 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
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
updated 4:42 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
From Maastricht to Melbourne, these itineraries make bookish travelers look stylish.
updated 2:24 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Good cocktails combine with spectacular views across rivers, cityscapes and oceans at these bird-level drinkeries.
updated 2:09 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
A California homeowner's nightmare has become a cautionary tale for those who rent their homes to strangers.
updated 10:26 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Cinema loves portraying the lives of expats. Sometimes it gets it right. Sometimes it casts Nick Nolte as a jungle king.
updated 9:17 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Don't be intimidated, says a local expert. Here's how to do China without the hassles
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
When your city has an unenviable reputation for insulting tourists and fleecing them for every cent, inviting hotel guests to pay what they want could be a risky move.
updated 3:10 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
1937 Auto Union V16 Streamliner, Audi Museum, Germany
With factory tours and collections of stunning vintage prototypes, southern Germany is petrolhead paradise.
updated 9:44 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Every tourist destination has a flip side, a season when prices go down and savvy, flexible travelers can score big savings.
updated 3:11 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
A Marrakech lamp bazaar
Morocco's Red City is crammed with stunning gardens, shaded souks and steamy bath houses.
updated 12:52 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Santo Stefano Island, Italy
Pristine beaches, unspoiled nature and few tourists -- a stretch on these former penal colonies is no longer a punishment.
updated 5:23 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Life in Joburg can be stressful. Luckily there are some exceedingly non-stressful places close by.
updated 5:07 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Istanbul skyline
CNN's Ivan Watson pays homage to the city he's called home for the past 12 years.
China notches up another superlative achievement as a Nanjing-based artist creates the world's largest and longest anamorphic painting.
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
In what is undoubtedly the world's "coolest" surf video, photographer Chris Burkhard endures freezing temperatures, blizzards and injury to capture Arctic waves and their riders.
updated 11:39 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Few airline routes are as cutthroat as the one that travels between London and New York. It is the world's busiest route and there are few lengths airlines won't go to in the hopes of getting a piece of the action.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT