F&L News: Johnny di Francesco, world champion pizza maker, introduces world's first 99-cheese pizza

Remember that scene from the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film where Splinter uses to lure of a fictional 99-cheese pizza to break Michelangelo's willpower, despite Donatello claiming that it's a "culinary impossibility"? Yeah, well World Champion (literally, he came first in Italy's annual Campionato Mondiale Della Pizza earlier this year) Pizza maker Johnny di Francesco from Melbourne has drawn inspiration from the scene and created the Novantanove Formaggio - the world's first 99-cheese pizza, to be available to customers of his newest Melbourne restaurant 400 Gradi at Crown in Melbourne's Southbank on Saturday 13th December from 12:30pm - 2:30pm

The masterful pizza maker created the pizza after several trials, holding himself to the high standard he has become known for to ensure that this pizza is much more than just a gimmick.

I was amongst the first to try a slice (which turned into at least 6 slices) of the pizza, and my initial skepticism melted away on the first bite. This was a brilliantly balanced pizza, benefiting from the use of light cheeses over hard cheeses, and keeping taste as the focus.

"It's incredibly easy to source everything from Australia", Johnny said at an intimate theatrette gathering earlier today, taking us through just some of the cheeses he has included on the pizza. Everything is sourced fresh, largely excluding any man-made, unnatural cheeses. Johnny has melted down 94 cheeses, in varying quantities, into a base, on which he has layered on the rest like fetta and goat cheese. What you end up with is a topping that is deliciously fluffy on first bite, giving way to a soft, flavourful mixture of cheeses that isn't as a strong as one would expect, but rather light and creamy.

While there are stronger cheeses like blue vein cheese, gorgonzola, smoked cheese, and swiss cheese, the taste is balanced as such that these only come through in very small barely noticeable bursts. The final pizza features cheeses from a myriad of different countries, so there are small pockets of different flavours you can notice as the taste lingers.

Di Francesco said "I'm extremely excited to be involved in this project. I grew up watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so bringing to life the TMNT 99-cheese pizza to celebrate the Blu Ray/DVD launch is a real honour". He continues to explain the process, "the most challenging part of the process was ensuring the right quantity of cheeses. With so many flavours and textures we wanted to make sure that the final pizza was still something that people would want to eat! The final result is without doubt a cheese lovers dream – we think Michelangelo will be happy".

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is available to own on Blu-ray DVD tomorrow Wednesday 10th December. In this eye-popping reimagining of the legendary heroes in a half shell, New York is under attack by the sinister Shredder, but fearless leader Leonardo, brilliant and brainy Donatello, rough and rebellious Raphael and wild and crazy Michelangelo take to the streets to defend their home with the help of intrepid reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and their brilliant sensei, Splinter. Packed with jaw-dropping action and special effects and loaded with the franchise’s signature humor, The film also stars Will Arnett, Whoopi Goldberg, and William Fichtner and features Johnny Knoxville as the voice of Leonardo and Tony Shalhoub as the voice of Splinter.

Our review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can be found HERE

The TMNT 99-Cheese Pizza will be available from 12:30pm to 2:30pm on Saturday 13th December at Gradi at Crown in Melbourne’s Southbank. Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank. To be one of the first to sample the TMNT 99 Cheese Pizza, please email reservations@400gradi.com.au to confirm your booking and avoid disappointment.

The list of all cheeses included on the pizza is as follows:

1. Aged cheddar

2. American cheese

3. Asiago

4. Auricchio Calcagno

5. Aurrichio grana padano

6. Auricchio parmigiano

7. Australian Colby

8. Australian mild cheddar

9. Australian shredded pizza cheese

10. Blue cheese

11. Blue vein cheese

12. Bocconcini

13. Brie

14. Buffalo mozerella

15. Bulgarian sheep fetta

16. Burrata

17. Cacio

18. Calcagno

19. Camembert

20. Castello white

21. Cheddat

22. Chilli Cheddar

23. Cloth aged vintage cheddar

24. Colby

25. Cottage Cheese

26. Cracked Pepper cheese

27. Cream Cheese

28. Cyprus Style Haloumi

29. Danish Blue

30. Deidre mini chol

31. Dill chevre

32. Double cream brie

33. Easy melt Colby

34. Edam

35. Extra Sharp parmesan

36. Extra sharp vintage cheddar

37. Extra tasty cheese

38. Feta

39. Goats milk caprakaas

40. Goats

41. Goats cheese with Italian black truffle

42. Goats curd

43. Gorgonzola

44. Gouda

45. Grana Padano cheese

46. Grated nacho cheese

47. Grated pizza plus

48. Greek Feta

49. Gruyere

50. Haloumi

51. Havarti

52. Italian Cheese blend

53. Jarlsberg

54. Labneh

55. Light ricotta

56. Light Tasty

57. Lite n Tasty cheese slices

58. Lite swiss Jarlsberg

59. Livefree natural cheese

60. Manchego

61. Marscapone

62. Mexican Cheese Blend

63. Mild cheddar

64. Mini babybel

65. Mozerella

66. Nimbin natural cheese

67. Paneer

68. Parmesan

69. Parmigiano reggiano stravecchio

70. Pecorino

71. Persian fetta

72. Red Leicester

73. Red wax cheddar

74. Reduced fat cheddar cheese

75. Reduced fat vintage

76. Reggiano cheese

77. Ricotta

78. Saganaki

79. Sandwich cheese slice

80. Shanklish

81. Shredded lactose free

82. Smoked cheese

83. Smoked dutch

84. Special reserve vintage cheddar

85. Spreadable quarg

86. Stilton

87. Strong and bitey vintage

88. Supreme sour cheese

89. Sweet chilli cheese

90. Swiss cheese

91. Tasmanian Danish fetta

92. Tasmanian fetta

93. Tasmanian heritage st Claire swiss

94. Triple cream brie

95. Vintage club pickled cheddar cheese

96. Vintage extra sharp slices

97. Vintage tasty

98. Welsh cheddar cheese

99. White Brie