Timeless pizza perfection ... The margherita at Fire Chief Pizzeria in Hawthorn. Photo: Eddie Jim
Badabing at Ladro
The Sopranos references aside, Ladro's Badabing is a pizza to be reckoned with: a thin, hand-shaped base, sparingly scattered with big-flavoured ingredients — tomato, provolone, oregano, fresh chilli, basil and, the knockout punch, brilliant pork sausage — and then wood-fired for subtle smokiness and slightly charred edges.
$20.50. Ladro, 224 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. Phone: (03) 9415 7575.
The Bosphorus at the Moor's Head
Melbourne's best prawn pizza (with chilli, garlic, coriander and a superb tomato sugo), even if it's the brilliantly inauthentic Lebanese-Italian pizza of Joseph Abboud done pide-style.
$19. The Moor's Head, rear, 774 High Street, Thornbury. Phone: (03) 9484 0173.
Caserta at 400 Gradi
Johnny Di Francesco has Neapolitan roots and his excellent wood-fired pizzas seem to prove it. The Caserta is the pared-back glamour number of the list with star ingredients — Levoni prosciutto,
imported mozzarella di bufala and San Marzano tomatoes — and careful cooking underlining the beauty of the quality-simplicity equation.
$24.50. 400 Gradi, 99 Lygon Street, Brunswick. Phone: (03) 9380 2320.
Named after the Italian gypsies ... The "zingara" pizza at 400 Gradi. Photo: Angela Wylie
Cicoria at Cafe Bedda
Cafe Bedda's Sicilian approach to pizza includes some truly excellent vegetarian options such as the Cicoria, a simple, powerful combination of wilted chicory, salty asiago, lemon, black pepper and
olive oil all strewn across a nicely heat-blasted crust (via electric oven) complete with puffy, crisp edges. Michael Harden
$17.50. Cafe Bedda, 242 High Street, Northcote. Phone: (03) 9482 9420.
Margherita at Firechief
The AVPN has got it right — its endless stipulations about wood and temperature and yeast and fermentation and cooking time and hand-crushed San Marzano tomatoes and DOP buffalo mozzarella add up, quite simply, to timeless pizza perfection.
$20.50. Firechief, 169 Camberwell Road, Hawthorn East. Phone: (03) 9831 1700.
Melenzane at Mr Wolf
Roasted veg, fresh cheese and chilli pop up plenty of times on Karen Martini's pizza menu. The combo rocks big-time in the spicy Melenzane with roasted eggplant and fior di latte. Families pile in before 6.30pm for the $10 kids' meal deal.
$22. Mr Wolf, 15 Inkerman Street, St Kilda. Phone: 9534 0255.
Porcini Prosciutto at Woodstock Cafe
"Their dough is a bit more bready; more like my mum would make it," Momesso says. "Calabrese-style, but also airy, and the base is crispy. All it is is tomato, mozzarella, porcini, and then the prosciutto is sliced to order and just fresh on top."
Riccardo Momesso, chef at Sarti
$22. Woodstock Cafe, 612 Nicholson Street, Carlton North. Phone: 9481 8122.
Pumpkin at the Grosvenor Hotel
A new chef has the wood oven pumping at this big, glam pub. The pumpkin pizza shines with mozzarella, gorgonzola, vincotto, rocket and pine nuts. Also consider the panzarotti, stuffed with slow-roasted lamb and artichokes. Bargain-hunter alert: there's $12 eat-in pizza on Tuesday.
$18. The Grosvenor Hotel, 10 Brighton Road, St Kilda East. Phone: (03) 9531 1542.
The Queenslander at Pizza Meine Liebe
Come out of the closet and be counted, fans of ham and pineapple. With tomato, mozzarella, speck and fresh pineapple, PML's Queenslander is nothing to be ashamed of.
$19.50. PML, 231 High Street, Northcote. Phone: (03) 9482 7001.
Salumi at The Way to San Jose
Thin, chewy pizzas are cooked for a good time, not a long time at this southern newbie. Our pick is the salumi, topped with nubbins of pork mince, spicy salami and super-silky pancetta.
$21. The Way to San Jose, 135 McKinnon Road, McKinnon. Phone: 9578 6550.
Tallegio, raddichio and porcini at DOC Mornington
"WE HAD it as a special once," Momesso says of the tallegio, raddichio and porcini pizza at DOC Mornington. "Whenever I go back there I ask for it." He loves the earthiness of the tallegio, the bitterness
of the radicchio (dressed and seasoned) and the aroma of the porcini — "like a good Chanel No.5".
$24.50. DOC Mornington, 22 Main Street, Mornington. Phone: (03) 5977 0988.
Zingara at 400 Gradi
Topped with San Marzano tomato, fior di latte, hot salami and rocket, this pizza is named after the Italian gypsies, the "zingara". "Being southern Italian, we like salami," says Momesso, who reckons Johnny Di Francesco uses a great one and treats the fiore di latte properly (pressed and drained), giving the cheese a stringy, chewy texture. "It keeps the dough dry. Nothing worse than when you go to pick up the pizza and everything slides off," he says.
$20. 400 Gradi, 99 Lygon Street, Brunswick. Phone: 9380 2320.