If you remember, or know of, the old Chuck Berry song Johnny B. Goode, you will know it was about someone who played the guitar really well. A couple of the lines in the song were ‘Oh my, but that little country boy could play’ and ‘But he could play a guitar just like a-ringing a bell’. Johnny B Goode would have people coming from miles around and passers-by stop and listen to his incredible guitar playing and his mother often would say that one day his name would be in lights.
Well, here in Melbourne we have our own Johnny B. Goode. While it’s not by playing a guitar, Johnny Di Francesco has made his mark by making pizza. From a working in a small, local pizzeria to having his name in lights when he was crowned World pizza champion at the Campionato Mondiale Della Pizza in Italy, Johnny Di Francesco now has a series of restaurants that are constantly packed out and have hordes of people knocking at his doors to dine on his delicious cuisine.
Last night I was invited to the launch of Johnny’s newest restaurant, catering for those in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne, at the Town Square in Eastland, Ringwood.
As with all of Johnny’s restaurants in the Gradi chain, the Eastland eatery is high fashion when it comes to décor, offering two storeys of dining in a stylish, industrial design with some high-end theatrical-style light fittings.
In his speech thanking everyone for attending, Johnny admitted that the Eastland restaurant had involved a very long journey.
In recognition of the work done for the opening evening, Johnny said, “I want to thank the staff in the kitchen, Ricardo, Harry, Silvana who have done an amazing job; they have been working for the last two days from morning to the evening. I would also like to thank Daniella, all my management team, all the new staff that have come on board at Eastland. I hope that we can do a good job for all of the locals here. I want to thank all the tradesmen, thanks guys, you seriously did some crazy stuff working around the clock trying to get this place open.”
Johnny then made a special thankyou to one of his staff members who has worked approximately 15 hours a day for the last weeks trying to get the Eastland restaurant organised.
Presenting flowers to Valerie, Johnny said, “You have done an amazing job, thank you. Eight weeks ago I walked into the office and said ‘I think I am going to get rid of the builder; you are going to be project manager.’ I presented her to QIC and said, ‘if this person is on the job, trust me; it’s going to get done!’ You did an amazing job, thank you very much.”
Food and wine flowed freely throughout the evening and as usual, all was of top quality and totally delicious and I will openly admit, while I salivate even thinking of every morsel of food I have ever tasted at any of the Gradi restaurants, my favourite is Johnny’s award winning Margherita Verace pizza.
You will find the full range of pizzas, including my favourite, at all of the Gradi restaurants but other parts of the menu change to cater for the clientele.
Gradi Eastland is the first in the chain to be open for breakfast, offering dining from 8am with the breakfast menu being available until 4pm. While offering some spins on breakfast favourites such as Fruit Toast – Noisette Sourdough fruitloaf with orange marmalade butter, and Dr Marty’s Iconic Crumpets – with Espresso butter and fresh banana, the menu also includes Baked Eggs Arrabiata – Spicy tomato baked eggs with ‘Nduja salami, olives, bullhorn peppers, lima beans and onions served with crusty bread, and Woodfired Tomato Bruschetta – Thyme and sea salt roasted tomatoes, black garlic oil, buffalo mozzarella and basil salad.
So, my congratulations go to Johnny Di Francesco for another Gradi restaurant, I think you already know how happy I am to have one of your restaurants in my little neck of the woods. I am sure to be a regular customer and can’t wait to try out the breakfast menu, and of course, my favourite pizza at all other times of the day.
Go Johnny go!
Go Johnny go!
Go Johnny go!
Johnny you continue to B. Goode!