I can never get past eggs Benedict or pancakes when checking out a new brunch menu.
It’s fun to see how differently two very basic breakfast items can be made. Plus, how could anyone choose between something savory versus sweet for brunch? That’s why it’s always good to bring friends along for the ride. But brunch is much more of an American phenomenon than it is an Italian tradition, no?
400 Gradi has introduced a delightful brunch service that takes the art of brunching to the next level. Named for the temperature of the Neapolitan-style oven (400 degrees Celsius), the restaurant aims for classic Italian recipes and cooking methods, and they say they’re hyper-focused on quality ingredient sourcing (both locally and from Italy). This goes as far as adjusting the pH levels of the water to mimic that of the water in Naples, Italy, to ensure house-made pastas and pizza doughs are in line with expectations.
The Italian-inspired menu has many of the usual brunch suspects, each executed with a distinct Italian flair. Take the hazelnut and pear Italian French toast, made with house-made bread, egg custard and brown butter caramelized pear ($13). Or try the egg white frittata with Cotto ham, spinach, red onion, mushrooms and goat cheese ($14).
Of course, I went for the Gradi eggs Benedict with ham and spinach on grilled bread with an avocado hollandaise and served with a side of heavenly potatoes ($15). The roasted potatoes were crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, with plenty of olive oil, hints of rosemary and sea salt and topped with Parmesan.
My eggs were a tad overcooked (no runny egg yolk), but the ham, with the lightly wilted spinach, was topped with ample sauce. The house-made grilled bread was crunchy, reminiscent of an English muffin, but even better. The Benedict was so good, I didn’t mind the hard poach. The classic Bellini, made with pureed peach nectar, orange and prosecco, served chilled, completed the meal ($12).
But the standout of this brunch was the orange-ricotta pancake: A crisp-yet-impossibly-fluffy “hot cake” topped with warm orange honey-butter, fresh fruit, Flor di Latte gelato and a Mandarin sorbet ($14). The contrasts of hot and cold, with the fluffiness of the pancake, which had a slight crunch on the outside, were sublime. The crispiness of the outside of the pancake kept it from turning to mush. And the layers of orange throughout pulled it all together. My dining companion and I devoured every last bite.
These aren’t your everyday pancakes, but it’s no wonder. Italian brunch makes total sense when you consider that Italian dining is all about sharing an amazing feast with family and friends.
And 400 Gradi isn’t your everyday Dallas restaurant newcomer. This concept is owned by Gradi Group, which operates 400 Gradi locations throughout Australia, Auckland, Bahrain and Kuwait.
This chef-driven restaurant began in 2008 in Brunswick, Victoria, where Johnny Di Francesco began pursuing his dream of crafting Neapolitan pizza. His restaurants adhere to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (the world authority on Neapolitan pizza), and Di Francesco is the Australian principal for the Association. In 2018, 400 Gradi took the highly-coveted “Best Pizzeria of 2018” at the world championship.
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Gradi Group also owns a sister concept, Zero Gradi, a gelato and sorbetto concept. The Dallas location of Zero Gradi is currently under construction just two doors down and is slated to open sometime in early spring. But that’s not all: Gradi Group has set its sights on other locations in Texas, with a possible location going to Houston next.
Parking at 400 Gradi is a breeze. The Trammell Crow Center parking garage (2,000 spaces) has an entrance behind the restaurant. Enter on North Harwood Street or San Jacinto Street, and receive complimentary 2-hour parking with validation.
400 Gradi, 2000 Ross St., Suite 140 (downtown). Brunch served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.