Review: Gradi at Crown Casino, Southbank

I’m a talker and over-sharer. That’s just my nature. My colleagues probably know far too much about me as I’ve involved them in most of my personal dramas from insisting that they look at my feet to help me decide if I have different sized-feet, to loudly announcing that I’ve chosen to embrace hairy legs for winter (seriously, why bother shaving?). My close girlfriends receive the same treatment and I probably monopolise most of the conversation every time we get together.

It always surprises me when others don’t quite over-share the way I do and are more inclined to keep big, life-altering news close to their heart and very low-key. Like my friend Dotty, who revealed (under duress!) at our last dinner get-together that she and her partner had gotten secretly married on their latest trip overseas, with a ceremony in Tokyo Disneyland. And as if that wasn’t life-changing enough, she announced that she was five months pregnant.

Colour me baffled – if that was me, I’d be shouting the news from the rooftops! That’s the beautiful thing about humans though – we’re all different. Honestly, I don’t think our friendship group would work quite as well if everyone over-shared like me, as having a mix of personalities is what keeps us going!

Mix of mocktails, $12 each
Mix of mocktails, $12 each

This exciting news from Dotty was shared over pizzas and drinks at Gradi at Crown Casino. An off-shoot of the original award-winning 400 Gradi, the Crown location is in high-demand with all tables taken on the Saturday night we were there, and queues stretching out the door. A reservation is a must if you dine there at peak times.

A few of us in the group choose not to drink alcohol, and so we asked our waitress for a few mocktails. Without an official mocktail menu, she asked us to choose our preferred style of mocktail (sweet, fruity or sour), and then a feature fruit (berries, citrus, passionfruit, etc). With our preferences in mind, she went away to the bar and came back with some personalised mocktails – each perfectly hitting the mark of what we were in the mood for that evening. For that reason alone, I’d recommend choosing a mocktail rather than a cocktail because you’re certainly not limited by what’s set out on the drinks menu!

Broccolini, $12
Broccolini, $12

On the menu that evening was a few vegetable sides and starters to share, as well as a selection of their thin-based style pizzas. First up was the Broccolini, lightly blanched and with some shaved parmesan on top. While the broccolini was still crunchy, you could tell that it was actually getting a bit old – the stalks were a bit too thick and the florets were starting to yellow. To be fair, it is getting harder to find perfect fresh young broccolini at this time of the year, but I was disappointed that the produce wasn’t quite up to scratch.

Arancini, $6 each
Arancini, $6 each

The Arancini on the other hand, was simply delicious. It was only lightly crumbed, allowing the delicious herbed rice and vegetable mix inside to be the main feature. It can still sit quite heavily in your stomach though, so if you’re planning on over-ordering on pizzas and pastas for main, I’d probably recommend a different appetiser that isn’t quite so carb-heavy.

Insalata di rucola, $13
Insalata di rucola, $13

In Insalata di rucola was lovely. The rocket was nice and fresh and young, meaning that we avoided getting that really peppery taste of old rocket. In contrast, this salad was lovely and refreshing, with just the right amount of balsamic vinegar dressing to give it a little bit of a kick.

Parmagiana pizza, $24
Parmagiana pizza, $24

I was a big fan of the parmagiana pizza – grilled eggplant is one of my favourite pizza toppings. Grilled eggplant with lots of melted cheese on top is even better, especially if the pizza base has only been lightly brushed with tomato sauce – there’s nothing worse than a pizza with too much sauce on it!

Margherita verace, $21
Margherita verace, $21

I always like to order a margherita pizza when I visit pizza places like this as it can be a great indication of a restaurant’s approach to pizza. Unfortunately, the base of this pizza was overdone, and there wasn’t as much cheese or basil as I would have preferred.

Boscaiola, $22
Boscaiola, $22

Beware the boscaiola pizza if you have people in your group who aren’t very fond of stronger flavours. The goats cheese topping this pizza is definitely on the stronger side, especially when paired with this pizza base which was, again, a little bit overdone in my opinion with some black charcoal air pockets on top, and a base that was burnt in places.

Gradi do pizza in the traditional style – thin-based, not too much sauce, minimal toppings. Cooked in their special pizza oven, the pizzas that come out are on the verge of overcooked, but the great toppings are just begging to be eaten. It is very busy in Gradi at night though with an associated lack of service – you may find it hard to catch the attention of the wait staff. Despite that, it is a good restaurant for catchups as it’s quite central and easily accessible. The food is reasonably priced, and is perfectly designed for sharing in a larger group. I’d like to go back at some point, but first, I’d like to try their original location at 400 Gradi!

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