JOHNNY DI FRANCESCO
Meet Event Ambassador Johnny Di Francesco
Owner of Melbourne institution 400 Gradi, Johnny Di Francesco began his love affair with pizza at just 12 years old and we sat down with him recently to find out more about him.
Of all the food in the world, why pizza?
I ended up in the world of pizza by chance really. It was only after working with pizza - and traditional Neapolitan pizza in particular - that I realised how special a cuisine it is. There’s so much history involved, and it’s my history. So although it was a chance entry into the world of pizza, I feel almost like it was meant to be, and now that I’ve made a life in this world, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
How did you get started in the culinary world?
It’s a funny story - I actually started working in a pizza shop as a 12 year old so I could save up to buy a pair of Nikes. My parents couldn’t afford to buy things like that, so I started working so I could buy them myself. That was the start of a lifelong passion!
Do you have any advice for budding pizza chefs?
My advice is that you have to be in it for love. It takes a lot of hard work to make a profitable business from pizza, so you need to really be passionate about what you do.
What is the one pizza topping you can’t live without?
Quality tomatoes. We use San Marzano tomatoes which are considered the best in the world - and you can tell from the flavour.
What’s your view when it comes to pineapple on pizza?
Ah such a controversial subject! I’m a firm no on this one. Pineapple has no place on pizza, especially the traditional Neapolitan kind.
Do you have any tips for people wanting to make their own pizza dough at home?
Patience is the big thing when it comes to dough. It’s not difficult to make, but it does take time and you need to plan in advance so that it has time to rest overnight.
If you hadn’t pursued a culinary career, what do you think you would be doing now?
I actually left an engineering degree to work with pizza full time, so that was probably my sliding doors moment.
What are you most looking forward to about Eat Street Melbourne?
Eating! And sharing my passion for traditional Neapolitan cuisine with even more people.