HE’S been making pizzas since he was 12 years old and puts the number he’s seen come out of ovens “in the millions”.
Johnny di Francesco certainly knows what makes a good pizza. So much so he was named the world’s best pizza maker in the 2014 World Championships in Italy for his authentic Napoletana-style pizza he serves up in his popular 400 Gradi pizzerias in Melbourne’s Brunswick and Southbank.
“It’s the best product in the world. Very few people don’t like pizza,” Johnny says. And it’s hard to disagree.
As president of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana in Australia and New Zealand, an association dedicated to promoting and protecting the true Neapolitan pizza around the world, Johnny judges and accredits pizzerias that meet the strict criteria for authenticity.
But while a wood-fired stone oven burning at 400 degrees is the only true way to cook a Neapolitan style pizza, with a little know-how — and a good deal of patience — cooking great pizza can be done at home, too.
“I tell people when making pizza at home, it’s really simple,” Johnny says. “Make your dough one day, for pizza the next day. Then you’re not stressing out. You have the dough and all the mess out of the way. When your guests arrive for dinner, you just need to top the pizza, and cook.”
Sounds easy in theory, but what about in practice? How do you make good pizza at home that would impress even this master pizzaiolo?
“You just have to understand how to break up the work,” he insists.