From Australia to the States, Dallas’ newest upscale Italian concept has had a long journey to America. 400 Gradi, located in the Arts District, offers visitors Italian cuisine just steps away from the Dallas Museum of Art and the Winspear Opera House.
Since opening the first location in Melbourne, Australia, chef and founder Johnny Di Francesco has worked to craft Italian food as authentically as possible, he says.
“It's not just a pizzeria, it's a full-service experience.” Di Francesco says. “The ambiance, the whole vibe and the service are all quite European. And that's pretty much what we wanted to establish. All of our restaurants have a European vibe and a very relaxed atmosphere. But you know, with that little bit of authenticity, as well.”
Di Francesco opens the Dallas location, the first in the U.S., with Igor Stevovic, whom he met when establishing 400 Gradi in the Middle East.
“He was assigned with me to help work on a project,” Stevovic says, “and we became very close because we share the same passion for food, the same passion for good execution in terms of hospitality. We successfully translated the Australian brand and brought it into the Middle East.”
Stevovic recalls later discussing the possibility of working together to bring 400 Gradi to the U.S. After a quick chat over espresso, the two set up a game plan.
“We fell in love with Dallas because of the Southern hospitality,” Stevovic says. “When we explored the Dallas market, we saw a lot of diversity and growing potential.”
While ingredients at 400 Gradi are brought in from Italy, the sauces, stocks and noodles are all made in-house. Many of the dishes are prepared and cooked with a specially formulated water, which is distilled and brought to a pH balance of 7.
“A lot of people ask, ‘Why does the coffee taste so good in Naples?’” Di Francesco says. “It's not because they're using better coffees, but it’s because of the water. The water is a really major factor when it comes to producing any of the products, whether it's coffee or whether it's pizza. That’s why the pizza’s so good there.”
The pizza is made with dough that rises for 24 to 48 hours — never refrigerated, but in a room kept between 65% and 70% humidity at all times, along with other ingredients. Additionally, 400 Gradi’s lobster bisque is cooked for about 4½ hours to get it to the right consistency.
This downtown spot offers a selection of wines from California, Australia and Italy. There are also signature cocktails, such as the Gradi fizz, a sweet, milky mix of vanilla vodka, housemade crema ci limoncello, strawberries and cream soda ($14). Bolder, stronger cocktails include the wild, a blend of Wild Turkey 86 bourbon, Antica Formula vermouth and Campari ($12).
The menu boasts several pizzas and pastas, however, one must try the rigatoni con ragu di maiale, a plate of housemade rigatoni noodles coated with a lamb ragu and finished with cuts of eggplant and salted ricotta ($19).
Seasonal offerings will include a tortelli e zucca, a pasta with pumpkin filling complemented by butter, sage pine nuts and amaretti ($23).
400 Gradi, 2000 Ross Ave., Suite 140 (Arts District). Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday.