Crown Melbourne – 8 Whiteman St, Southbank
Monday to Sunday 12pm – 11pm
(03) 9292 5777
Created by pizza mastermind Johnny Di Francesco who’s won global awards for the world’s best pizza, now, his new menu is here for Melbourne to try.
Strolling down Melbourne’s Yarra Boulevard towards Gradi at Crown that’s located on the ground floor of the Crown Melbourne can put anyone in the mood for refreshing Italian wine and a delicious authentic Italian meal. Upon entering Gradi at Crown’s establishment, the low lighting and industrial décor inspires a feeling of warmth and comfort. With five-star service, I, alongside my guest, were promptly seated in comfortable lounge chairs and poured a glass of imported Italian still water as we waited for dinner to be served.
Gradi at Crown’s mastermind Johnny Di Francesco introduced us to his new Rapido Lunch Menu as well as detailing the complicated cooking process that accompanies every single dish.
Once seated, the first dish to land upon our table was a traditional antipasto dish, Burrata accompanied with specialty cured meats including prosciutto and salami that was served with a mixture of croquettes, imported mozzarella and other hard cheeses. Here we were blessed with Di Francesco’s wise words informing patrons that this meal is a traditional palate cleanser to prepare us for all the delicious food to come.
Served with Alfani white wine, the next meal to try came served in seashells, Capesante. It was a delectable scallop served on top of a corn puree and drizzled with truffle oil. Not only was the dish stunning to admire and snap a picture of, but the taste was so bewitching you could hear forks scratching on seashells to get the last crumb of corn puree onto forks.
With more Alfani wine on the way, we were blossoming when the battered zucchini flower stuffed with salted cod fish, known as Fiori Di Zucca arrived. Di Francesco detailed the extensive fermenting process of the cod which takes a total of three days. Ending up in our mouths, the end result was a perfectly salted cod – not too little, not too much. Wishing that the Fiori Di Zucca would never end, we can happily digress that process works flawlessly!
For the next course, Di Francesco said, “You cannot eat at 400 Gradi without being served the world’s best pizza.” With our excitement running high, our next meal was Gradi at Crown’s famous Margherita Versace pizza served with Bertani Valpolicella red wine. Here, Di Francesco taught patrons the correct way to eat the pizza: by folding it in half then folding the tip in on itself to create a ‘pizza sandwich’ of sorts. Accompanied with the delicious red wine, it is easy to see how Di Francesco’s pizza is one of the best in the world. Award well earned!
Following the showstopping pizza, patrons were served another palate cleansing antipasto course that was filled with anh invigorating assortment of homemade breads, imported mozzarella and chargrilled tomatoes.
Next, a delightful homemade authentic pasta dish served with pulled pork and eggplant which thankfully found its way into my stomach. The Rigatoni Con Ragu di Maiale was by far my favourite dish. The pork ragu fell apart in your mouth and was beautifully accompanied with the Valpolicella. Based on the light and fluffy pizza, the rich invigorating taste (and smell) of the pasta and of course the bread that keeps us coming back for more, visitors of course cannot deny that everything at Gradi is in fact made daily in the Southbank restaurant.
Lastly, guests were served Risotto Agli Asparagi, a delicious risotto dish served with zucchini puree and asparagus. It was the perfect refreshing dish to complete the dining experience. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, even though we were already unbuttoning our pants, one bite was nowhere near enough.
Di Francesco’s new menu at Gradi at Crown is absolutely to die for. Instead of the near 25 hour trip to Italy to discover all these fantastic meals, take a stroll down the picturesque Yarra Boulevard to this authentic Italian restaurant. I cannot wait until I can go back again to taste my way through the entire menu!
Thank you so much Johnny Di Francesco, Melbourne is blessed with your passion and talent in authentic Italian cuisine.