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 9:17 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
The Y-40 Deep Joy, the world's deepest swimming pool at the Hotel Millepini Terme in Montegrotto Terme, Italy.
An Italian spa complex adds new depths to the hotel swimming pool concept with a 42-meter plunge chamber.
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Whether spiraling up mountains or sky-scraping attractions, these stairs give new meaning to the phrase "watch your step".
updated 10:29 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Even during the harshest periods of the communist era, being Shanghainese had a special cachet in China.
updated 8:52 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Up the Inside Passage on a heritage tugboat, sport fishermen chase British Columbia's monster salmon.
updated 3:41 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
New York to London in three hours? The European aviation giant is joining the race to make it happen.
updated 6:07 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Which cities provide the most memorable party times? A self-proclaimed "nightlife connoisseur" names his top 10.
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
Whether you're looking for a post-meeting pint or a wild night out, creativity is on the menu at these hot Hong Kong venues.
updated 6:28 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
An image showing the Istanbul district of Beyoglu where gentrification is changing the face of the neighborhood and leading the closure of many old shops and establishments.
Artists and migrants are moving out as a once-crumbling neighborhood goes upscale.
updated 1:02 AM EDT, Sat September 20, 2014
They irrigate our farms, are an important means of transport and a source of eco-friendly power.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT