You don’t have to scratch the surface too deep to know Melbourne has an Italian heart. Just look at the city’s critical mass of excellent pizza joints and say “ciao”. Whether your taste swings Neapolitan or Roman – or maybe somewhere in between – the oven is hot with our definitive top 10.
Since taking out the World Pizza Championships in 2014, Johnny di Francesco has expanded his 400 Gradi empire to three restaurants (the Brunswick original, Crown casino and Essendon) and his wood-fired, AVPN-accredited margherita is indeed award-worthy. The other 13 pizzas on the menu ain’t too bad, either.
99 Lygon Street, East Brunswick; Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank; 1/110 Keilor Road, Essendon
The new kid on the city block, SPQR (Latin for “the Senate and people of Rome”) is a hospitality blue blood (backer David Mackintosh is behind Lee Ho Fook, MoVida, Rosa’s Canteen and Ides). The wood oven pumps out puffy-crusted beauties that swing either tomato-based or bianco – and they sell it by the slice or the whole pie.
26 Liverpool Street, Melbourne
The Fitzroy joint that started the artisan pizza craze well over a decade ago has been joined by a Prahran sibling, and both keep the Ladro name in lights with award-winning wood-fired pizza topped with judiciously chosen toppings such as the Lazio: anchovy and artichoke paste giving a salty whack to fior di latte.
224 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy; 162 Greville Street, Prahran
You’ve got to love a place that segues from an immersive, so-Italian-it-hurts wine bar at the front to a bustling restaurant out back. And you’ve got to love Bar Nonno’s pizzas, crisp-based numbers with so much integrity it would be an insult to use cutlery. Expect punchy toppings at this Northcote favourite, such as n’duja (the Calabrian spicy salami paste) with broccoli, leek and fior di latte.
83 High Street, Northcote
Karen Martini’s smart St Kilda pizza joint Mr Wolf is always jumping, from the early kid-friendly sitting to the cocktail-sipping night owls, and the Roman-style thin-crust pizzas please all comers across the age divide. Hit the Salsicce (tomato, mozzarella, sausage, pickled chillis and pancetta) to inject some zing in your life.
9-15 Inkerman Street, St Kilda
Rita Macali is synonymous with best-in-show pizza and her pizza at Supermaxi is nigh on perfection. Thin and crisp yet pliable – no cracking biscuit base here – they’re big and bold, sometimes delightfully misshapen and completely failsafe. Hit a pungent puttanesca, or a well-rounded GTV 105 Series 2 (named after the co-owner’s beloved Alfa Romeo), a bianco pizza with zucchini, cherry tomato, fior di latte, garlic and chilli.
305 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North
A rustic bolthole tucked off a leafy square in Carlton, Kaprica makes up in atmosphere what it lacks in size and pizzaiolo Pietro Barbagallo keeps the university crowds happy with his trademark electricity-fired pizza with minimalist toppings. Think tomato, provolone, artichoke and rocket. Or asiago and three types of mushrooms. Yep, that's pretty much all you need.
19 Lincoln Square South, Carlton
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Named after Queen Margherita, the post-unification Italian royal said to have inspired the “queen of pizzas” that took her name, Queen Margaret serves three versions, each with a different cheese: fior di latte, mozzarella with parmigiano, and buffalo mozzarella. Or betray the nation with the King of Scotland (with smoked salmon and mascarpone).
356 Queens Parade. Fitzroy North
Pizza Meine Liebe
A Northcote pizza haven perfumed by the warm, humid fug of the oven, Pizza Meine Liebe (“Pizza my love”) is old-school, from the retro-tastic décor to the thin-based pizzas topped with simple combinations such as fat king prawns and chilli, or the posh Hawaiian (known as the QLDer) with speck and pineapple.
231 High Street, Northcote
Italians do it better, self-evidently. Tony Nicolini’s growing pizza-and-mozzarella empire D.O.C (now in Carlton, Albert Park and Mornington) employs a battalion of heavily accented Italian waiters who’ll charm you through your pizza selection. Advice is mostly redundant, however: every one of these puffy-crusted, charred lovelies, many of them topped with prosciutto straight off the slicer, is a winner.
295 Drummond Street, Carlton; 135 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park; 22 Main Street, Mornington