Melbourne is known for its diverse cuisine and coffee culture. But what about pizza? Melbourne has a number of great pizzerias that serve up some of the best pies in Australia.
Since the first pizzeria opened in Melbourne in 1961, the humble pie has held a profound position in the hearts and stomachs of Melbournians. With blistered wood-fired crusts and delicious toppings, the pizzas at these eight restaurants allow anyone with an appetite to travel to Naples for an authentic taste of Italy momentarily.
Toto’s, our first pizzeria, opened on Lygon Street in 1961. Although Neapolitan-style pizza – woodfired, crisp at the edges, pliant in the middle – has come to dominate our restaurants since a new generation has been doing some tinkering. The results are interesting – it’s now easy to find pizzas that go toe-to-toe with the best Neapolitan interpretations, despite being cooked in electric ovens or using something other than the revered San Marzano tomato. And as much as we love staunchly traditional pizzas, it’s hard to beat the excitement of tasting something new and totally original to Melbourne.
Trying to whittle down a list of Melbourne’s best pizza joints is no small feat—it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. Old-school pizza seems to be having a renaissance in Melbourne, and we are here for it. With an excellent crispy base, generous toppings, and cheese for days, it’s got a pizza our heart.
99 Lygon St, East Brunswick
Established by champion pizzaiolo Johnny Di Francesco, 400 Gradi is renowned for its authentic Neapolitan pizzas. The restaurant even claimed the top spot at the 2014 World Pizza Championships for its much-loved Margherita. However, 400 Gradi’s reputation is sustained by much more than pizza with an excellent selection of seafood, pasta, and salumi, not to mention desserts including Cannoli Siciliani and the Fig and Mascarpone Calzone.
Located in famous Lygon St, 400 Gradi has made some significant waves in the pizza world. Johnny Di Francesco heads up 400 Gradi and comes from a traditional Italian family. He is also the first Australian to be trained to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana VPN rules in Naples – so it’s little wonder his pizzas are some of Melbourne’s best.
The menu is a celebration of Italian cuisine and includes mouth-watering antipasti, pasta and sliced meats. But, it’s really the traditional pizza that is the star of the show. So do yourself a favour and order Melbourne’s favourite Margherita.
400 Gradi also hold Kid’s Masterclasses for $45 per child.
D.O.C Pizza and Mozzarella Bar
135 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park; 295 Drummond St, Carlton; 22 Main St, Mornington
With humble beginnings in 1997, Tony Nicolini’s D.O.C. empire now includes an Espresso Bar, Delicatessen, and three pizza and mozzarella bars. With a no-booking policy, queues in the unassuming restaurant are the norm, but the wait is worth it. Thin, crispy crusts support imported Italian ingredients, with a map on the menu pointing to their origins. Culture Trip recommends Pizza Pomodoro and Pizza San Daniele, but let’s be honest, all of their pizzas are downright delicious.
D.O.C. is a story of evolution – and big success. What started out as a simple Melbourne pizzeria in the 90s has grown into a thriving chain of coffee bars, delis and pizza restaurants that Melburnians adore.
At D.O.C., you get authentic, artisan-style pizza topped with fresh antipasto ingredients. The Pizza and Mozzarella bars are contemporary and family-friendly – and they smell like heaven.
535 High Street Preston 3072
There’s no cutlery and notable service at Takeaway Pizza, the casual joint serving American-style slices to eat-in or take away. But it’s also a bar and late-night hangout serving wine by local producers and tropical cocktails.
The all-night slice menu has only four options – cheese, pepperoni, a meat pizza and a vegetarian pizza –. Still, the whole pizza list is more extensive and has several vegetarian options. You can order a gluten-free base or vegan mozzarella for an extra $2. The regular pizza dough is fermented for three days and cooked into a thin base with crunchy edges.
Owners Sam and Tom Peasnell (brothers) and their mate Adam Goldblatt aren’t Italian, and they’re not pretending to be. Instead, they have a no-rules approach – the same that’s won them so many fans at Dexter, their American barbeque spot across the road.
Tomatoes are cold-smoked to maintain sweetness while adding smokiness; pastrami is cured in-house for 10 days and then smoked. Another pizza is topped with that pastrami and shaved frozen bone marrow, a drizzle of meat sauce and spring onion.
The tiki-style cocktail list is centred on rum, mezcal and tequila. A 12-bottle wine list features enveloping-pushing, small-scale producers such Jamsheed and Alpha Box and Dice. The names rotate every month and have a focus on minimal intervention and uncommon varietals.
When the sun goes down, candles are lit, and the disco ball begins to turn, throwing dappled light on the floral wallpaper up back. The black and white harlequin-patterned floor and bar is made with second-hand tiles repurposed from another pizza shop.
239 Johnston Street Abbotsford 3067
Abbotsford local, Brett Graham, had been lamenting the lack of food options available at what was once the “dodgy” end of Johnston Street when he spotted a “for lease” sign on a vacant shopfront. So eight months later, he opened Rita’s
Run by three friends – owners and managers Brett Graham and Rob Lowther (of The Bottle of Milk and Pizza Pizza in Lorne) and chef Daniel Spizzica (formerly of the Stokehouse in St Kilda) – Rita’s is a charming pizza and pasta diner that has cultivated a strong community vibe. Even on a Sunday night, every table is reliably full.
The open kitchen fills the restaurant with the warm aroma of baking pizza. There are two sizes (10-inch and 13-inch), topped with classic combinations and served on consistently crispy bases. It’s these salty, semolina-encrusted bases that elevate the pizza at Rita’s to something worth travelling a few suburbs for, even if you’re just taking away. Our favourite is the Bingo Bango – mozzarella, salami, pancetta, olives and caramelised onion.
Gluten-free bases, salads, risotto and house-made portions of pasta are also on the menu. In addition, there’s beer on tap and everyday wines available by the bottle and glass.
Harley and Rose
572 Barkly Street West Footscray 3012
The Black Sorrows, Midnight Oil, AC/DC and Steely Dan are on the stereo. Three-child families camp at tables littered with stray pizza toppings. And with no apparent irony, salads come in those dinky faux-wood bowls that pubs used to serve chips in.
Welcome to Harley and Rose, the expectation-defying, sort-of pizzeria from Josh Murphy and Rory Cowcher, two chefs who spent years at Three Two One, Cumulus Inc., the Builders Arms and Cutler and Co.
But they’re not cooking that kind of chef-y, fashionable food. Here you have six pizzas; heaps of snacks and salads; and a banging wine list by peppy manager Mark Williamson, another Andrew McConnell alum. He also oversees the attached bottle-o, a weird little room behind the bar – one you’ll think you’re not allowed in. You are, and it’s filled with bottles from established producers and trendy low-interventionists such as Lucy Margaux.
Either style goes well with the pizza, which could be piled with Goolwa pippies, parsley, garlic and cream. Or basil, tomato and buffalo mozzarella to make a classic Margherita.
Ten or so snacks include mortadella from Meatsmith; fennel salami made by Dave Roberts, an ex-Movida chef; woodfired octopus with pesto; and burrata with rocket oil and fig and olive tapenade.
Roberta’s Romaine Lettuce with candied walnuts, pecorino and mint lead a quartet of salads, which bring some balance to the otherwise heavy selection.
421 Rathdowne Street Carlton 3053
Casey Wall, Manu Potoi and Michael Bascetta, who own Bar Liberty, are behind this Italian-American restaurant
After research trips to his home in the U.S., Chef Wall developed the unfussy and approachable menu Shaved prosciutto (made in Ballarat) and pork neck gabagool (cured ham) come with house-made sourdough and spicy pickled fennel. Next, cheese pizza with pecorino, fresh and aged mozzarella. The slightly sour, fermented base has a good char, and at the pointy end, Wall calls “the New York flop”; a slight droop. Takeaway pizza is available to order on Capitano’s website.
A clam chitarra (guitar string) pasta dish arrives with a reduction of clam broth and dashi finished with butter, parsley, and lemon. It’s restrained, clever cooking that doesn’t need to be analysed or explained.
Salads are bright and acidic; young kale and wild greens are coated in an anchovy-spiked dressing, blanketed in parmesan. Sliced apple, fresh fennel and aged ricotta work well with beef, pork and fennel meatballs. To share, there’s lasagne, veal parmigiana and dry-aged steaks.
Wine – as at Bar Liberty – is a big deal. Liberty’s list is 500-strong, but Capitano’s is tighter, including a few producers who “don’t muck around too much” with their wines. Around 95 per cent of the wines are made in Italy or from Italian grapes. Whites have texture, weight and savouriness; reds are light with loads of acidity and bright fruit flavours with tomato-based sauces.
Onto cocktails. Bar Liberty is all about ease of service (most are pre-batched but more technical). The list here revives the theatre of shaking and stirring. It reads classically (limoncello spritz, grapefruit Americano). Bitter and sour reigns, with regular hits of chamomile, saffron, orange and amaro. The grapefruit granita with Campari float doubles as a dessert.
The maroon and ivory interior is intimate. Art Deco light fixtures effuse a moody glow over wooden tables (some white-clothed, some not), bentwood chairs and banquette seating. The ’70s and ’80s Italian discos come courtesy of Sam Rogers, who spent time in Berlin as a music producer and now heads up the front of the house.
135 Victoria Avenue Albert Park 3206
Italian Artisans is a Tony Nicolini (the former owner of DOC (DOC Carlton, DOC Espresso, DOC Mornington, DOC Albert Park, DOC Delicatessen) passion project.
It’s in the former DOC Albert Park space, and the restaurant’s “artisans” include the Fragrassi and Ursini families, who supply tomatoes from the Italian region of Abruzzo; the Alvise family, who supply Puglian olive oil; and the Bamonte family, Italo-Australian mozzarella producers based in N.S.W.
For Nicolini, pizza is still “king”, but he experiments with alternative grains (from central Southern Italy) to make it more digestible, nutritious, and tastier. There are four variations of the Margherita; a porcini mushroom with truffle oil; the Culatello with smoked burrata; and one with tiger prawns, rocket and chilli. An Italian grain salad has buckwheat, black rice, chickpeas, pesto, carrots and almonds.
Nicolini’s antipasto menu includes 24-month-aged prosciutto, house-pickled vegetables and fresh cheeses. And “gastronomic marriages” such as burrata and bottarga, mortadella and stracciatella, and caponata and Salina capers. There’s a classic ricotta cannoli with candied orange and pistachio, a Nutella calzone, and goat ‘s-cheese tiramisu for dessert.
The extensive drinks list includes minimal-intervention wines from Puglia, Toscana, Piemonte and Veneto; a stellar Lambrusco from the Emilia-Romagna region; and Italian microbrews, including the malty, slightly herbaceous Baladin Pop from Piemonte.
Much of the fit-out is the same as at DOC Albert Park, with whitewashed walls, polished concrete floors and custom timber furniture.
362 Little Bourke St, Melbourne and 517 Malvern Rd, Toorak
Many people call this the best pizza in Melbourne. While there’s always a little debate on this topic, +39 Pizzeria is right up there, having taken out The Age Epicure’s prestigious award for Best Pizza in Melbourne in 2010.
With a focus on exquisite, fresh produce and authentic Italian cuisine, +39’s pizza menu is, quite frankly, irresistible – for kids and adults alike. +39 restaurants are inviting, bustling and contemporary; these are restaurants to sit a while longer – and maybe order another pizza for you and the kids to share.
And if you’re wondering what the +39 means, it’s the international country code for dialling Italy.
Greville St, Prahran
Ladro Tap is so-called because it’s not only a hub for sensational wood-oven pizza but also beer. But, let’s face it, with a menu like this, and at great prices, it I.S. all about the pizza really!
Ladro throws a creative spin on their pizza names and flavour combinations, which makes it a fun gastronomic outing for the family and one that is guaranteed to ignite those taste buds. Plus, you can pimp your pizza with loads of extras like chilli, capers and truffle oil. Juniors Diners feast for $15 and choose pizza or pasta in 4 different flavours, followed by a bomboloni or ice cream.
Ladro Tap gets a hats-off from us for its sustainable philosophy regarding kitchen waste; they recycle 100 per cent of their organic waste. (You can even buy it for $2 a bag if the kids want to start a compost project.)
388 High Street, Windsor, Victoria, 3181, Australia
Opened in November 2016, Small Print, short for small eco-footprint, is a holistic pizza bar keen on becoming ‘a self-sufficient, zero-waste venue.’ The largely vegetarian menu still includes vegan and gluten-free options and a Pimp Your Pizza range of toppings—all of which are organic and sourced locally. Small Print also has a selection of house-made soft drinks and promotes a glass-free zone with all alcohol on tap.
904 Doncaster Road, Doncaster East, Victoria, 3109, Australia
Zero 95, named after the area code of Catania in Sicily, was awarded the 2016 Caputo Cup for their Margherita pizza at the World Pizza Championship in Naples, Italy. Zero 95 features a menu inspired by Nonna’s recipes, including an extensive list of pizzas – all of which can be made with a gluten-free base, as well as pasta, and a dessert menu featuring the Zero 95 one-meter Party Pizza with Nutella and fresh strawberries.
406 Smith Street, Collingwood, Victoria, 3066, Australia
With a pizza menu including Pepperoni, Sausage, and Surf n Turf with beef and prawns, it’s a surprise to learn that Red Sparrow is Melbourne’s first all-vegan pizzeria. The plant-based pizzas are so good that even the most stubborn carnivores can be converted. Opened in February 2017 on Smith Street, Red Sparrow puts an ethical spin on classic Neapolitan pizzas, and it doesn’t stop there, with a drinks list featuring vegan wines.
225 Melville Road, Pascoe Vale South, Victoria, 3044, Australia
Specialising in wood-fire vegan and gluten-free pizza and pasta, Shop 225 is a suburban pizzeria that has quickly gained a cult following since opening in late 2016. Charred crusts hold a broad range of roll-off-the-tongue toppings, including Italian Porcini Mushrooms, homemade Calabrian Sausage, Fior Di Latte, Spicy N’duja and Smoked Scamorza Cheese. Located in Pascoe Vale South, Shop 225 shows that suburban pizzerias can compete with those in prime locations.
Little Michael’s Pizzeria
1398 Toorak Rd, Camberwell , 3124 VIC
Little Michael’s Pizzeria is one of only seven pizza joints in Melbourne with an AVPN accreditation from Naples. That’s like the Italian stamp of pizza approval, and it’s bloody hard to get. The dough is hand-prepped and leavened for over six hours (layman’s terms, it’s going to be fluffy A.F.). The toppings are sourced from Italy’s Campania region, and the pizzas are cooked for just 60-90 seconds in a blistering hot woodfired oven. It’s a pretty special experience for those after classic Ital-cuisine and easily some of the best pizza in Melbourne’s eastern ‘burbs.
Don’t leave without trying a serve of the handmade Nutella doughnuts, dusted with icing sugar.
You can also check these to see more: Best Pizza in Melbourne, Where to Get the Best Pizza in Melbourne, The 10 Best Pizza Places In Melbourne, Slice Up Your Life With Melbourne’s Best Pizza Shops, Best Pizza Restaurants In Melbourne 2021