400 Gradi: Crown
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It’s not a bad move to go and win “best pizza in the world” before opening your pizzeria
But that’s what Johnny Di Francesco did, when he took out the World Pizza Championships in Parma in 2014. There were queues out the door of his East Brunswick flagship eager to try his ‘best in the world’ Margherita. Still are. But now you can get your Best Pizza fix at Crown, where he’s boldly taken over the space vacated by the late, lamented Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons. It’s a big move for the Brunswick-based boy.
A massive space, redesigned from GAS’s moody magnificence into a bright and functional trattoria with flash outbreaks of copper and white marble, crammed to the rafters with pizza-loving punters. It can be hard to get a booking, but they save a third of the tables for walk-ins. Yes, yes, we’re getting to the pizza. It’s the same deal as in Brunswick, where Di Francesco sticks to the rules decreed from on high by Naples’ Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. You know the mob – they’re the pizza pedants who demand a wood-fired oven capable of reaching 400 degrees, hand-blended sugo made only from San Marzano tomatoes and salt, "00" flour, minimal yeast and a fermentation process to the order of 24 to 36 hours.
Gosh. And we thought it was just pizza.
The Napoletana pizza sticks to our rule that the uglier the pizza, the better the taste. The crust is gloriously puffy, airy and blistered, the base just a little too scorched in parts, but the texture is great – crisp without being all biscuit-like. The Parma ham is piggy-sweet, the sugo is addictive (must be those San Marzano tomatoes) and anchovies give it a zing. All up, pretty darned good.
And the rest? They’re big on imported Italian salumi and boast a GAS-worthy display cabinet that’s like a religious visitation. There are whispery shavings of prosciutto crudo mornello with surprisingly deep flavour, and chewy “hunter-style” hot salami (more warm than hot, truth be told), served on plate-like wafers of Sardinian carasau flatbread splashed in rosemary oil.
All up, it’s a big menu. Pasta, risotto, big meaty mains, although if you’ve hit the pizza too hard, go for the vongole in a broth of white wine, garlic and lemon for something that’s more fab than flab. On the other hand, polpetta (meatballs) are $6 you probably won’t remember. As for the wine list – it’s Italian and it’s trying hard, although the prices are a little ouchy and the staff’s knowledge bank isn’t always up to speed. But hey, it’s early days, and it’s a baby restaurant finding its feet. 400 Gradi has as good a shot as any at the fickle Crown market.
Crown Entertainment Complex, Shop 25
8 Whiteman St
|Transport:||Nearby stations: Southern Cross|
|Opening hours:||Daily 11.30am-midnight|