400gradi isn't about hype or egos, it's simply a wonderful celebration of Neapolitan food…it feels like an old friend -with the unassuming warmth of an Italian trattoria, pizzeria or enoteca – and with the announcement that Napoletana pizza is in the running for U.N. -cultural icon' status, the re-opening of the expanded and fully renovated 400gradi is perfectly timed -it was originally a small -local' where many Italian restaurateurs and chefs dined on their day off… and the youthful drive of chef and owner Johnny Di Francesco kept the focus totally on Naples.
Johnny was the first Australian ever inducted into the Vera Napoli Association – an international recognition of his abilities. He has a stable of pizzerias across Melbourne, but his recently expanded 400gradi is his flagship. The menu is typically Neapolitan and of course the star of the offerings is his Napoletana wood-fired pizza.
The décor is a wonderful combination of classic Italian textures and colours, from the espresso coffee ribbons of Stucco Veneziana on the walls - to the very fine golden calligraphy that features around the room. Black pendant lights lined with antique gold highlight the magnificent wall finishes and the dark grey Terrazzo style polished floor has its own highlights that also reflect a slightly golden hue.
Glistening mosaic marble tiles also help set the scene, with varying shades used on the, bar front and on the wood fired oven which protrudes slightly into the new room and leads the eye back to the large open kitchen. All of that overlooks the bar with its ceiling height smoky glass bulk head, a tall salumi cabinet and dark veined 160 year old red gum slab bar top. The redgum is also used as table tops with quirky table numbers carved into each corner by a local artisan wood mason. A small area to the rear is lined with the wood for the fire – a perfect place for privacy or for a small group. The overall effect is modestly glamorous, yet typically Italian in its informality.
400 degrees (gradi) is the ultimate pizza cooking temperature – it should cook quickly, be light as air and be on the table literally within minutes. Johnny's pizza list takes us on a regional tour of Italy ending in the home of Pizza – Naples, the rest of the menu includes Neapolitan entrees from mussels stuffed with capers and anchovy , scallops wrapped in prosciutto on pesto and olives filled with three meats cooked in fresh herbs. There are 5 pastas and 3 risottos offered and mains include both seafood – calamari with peas and rocket and also some -Carne' for the meat lovers. The wine list is a generous offering with both Italian varietals from Australia and regional Italian wines in the mix.
Johnny had already created a home away from home when he first opened 400gradi, now with it's size doubling and enjoying a complete renovation, the beautiful new look will delight its already loyal following and introduce a slice of Naples to the rest of Melbourne.
Address: 99 Lygon Street East Brunswick (the -other' end of Lygon Street!)
Phone: (03) 9380 2320
Opening hours - 7 nights for dinner only