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Downtown Dallas welcomes hotshot pizza concept from Australia

Downtown Dallas welcomes hotshot pizza concept from Australia

400 Gradi pizza
They do great pizza — but pastas, too. Photo by Kathy Tran

The pizza's on at 400 Gradi, the Italian restaurant from famed Australian chef Johnny Di Francesco, opening in downtown Dallas.

Those who've been Down Under recognize Di Francesco as a regular on Australian television, on shows such as MasterChef Australia, The Mentor, and Everyday Gourmet.

He founded 400 Gradi in 2008 and it has since become not only a Melbourne institution but an international concept with locations in Australasia and the Arabian Gulf. Now it hits the US of A, with this location in Dallas at 2000 Ross Ave.

According to a release, opening date is September 16, when it will be open for lunch and dinner with not just award-winning pizza but also a classic Italian menu.

2000 Ross Ave. is the big mixed-use development with 351 residential units and a 227-room hotel. The 26-story project encompasses an entire city block with frontage on Ross Avenue, Harwood Street, San Jacinto Street, and Olive Street.

At 400 Gradi, authenticity is the name of the game, with Neapolitan-style ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, gelato ingredients, and flour imported from Italy.

Extra steps they're taking include using a specially formulated water from a company called Artisan H2O that replicates the water found in Naples; and fermenting their dough and pastas for 48 hours in a temperature-controlled room with zero-percent humidity.

While the pizza is unquestionably a big deal, Di Francesco says Gradi isn't just a pizza place; it's a traditional Italian restaurant.

"It’s important to me that Dallas understands we have a lot more than just great pizza," Di Francesco says in a statement. "We take great pride in executing simplicity at its best and flew half a dozen of our key people to Dallas to train our local team. When you walk into one of my restaurants, I want you to escape and feel like you are in Italy – from the food, to the service, to the ambiance."

Pastas, gnocchi, bread, stocks, and sauces are all made in-house and include selections such as the popular Gnocchi di Luigi, pasta served with napoli and ricotta; Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, traditional meat ragu; and Spaghettini al Granchio, with cherry tomato, zucchini, crab meat, lobster bisque, and chile.

Antipastas include

  • Fiori di Zucca – zucchini flowers filled with salted cod
  • Mozzarelle Fritte – crumbed, fried and smoked mozzarella
  • Polpette al Sugo – meatballs, Napoli, parmesan and char-grilled homemade bread
  • Fritto Misto
  • Italian cured meats butchered on-site

Entrees include

  • Branzino – with braised fennel, leek, cherry tomato and fish velouté
  • Pollo Alla Diavola – chicken breast, pepperonata and nduja sauce
  • Guazzetto di Cozze – mussels, garlic, chili, white wine, parsley and Napoli sauce served with chargrilled bread

The pizza dough and toppings are prepared according to strict Neapolitan standards. There are more than 15 Neapolitan-style pizzas, including focaccia; Margherita; Quattro Formaggi (four-cheese); and one standout called the Suprema, with fior di latte, pumpkin, arugula, pine nuts, and goat cheese.

Di Francesco says he chose Dallas because it's a growing food city.

"When my business partners (who also live in Dallas) toured me around, I fell in love with North Texas," he says. "It reminded me of Melbourne, and I felt it was only natural to open 400 Gradi in the heart of Dallas."