Just Open: 400 Gradi, Essendon

400 Gradi's Essendon dining room combines moody grey and timber.
400 Gradi's Essendon dining room combines moody grey and timber. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

Johnny Di Francesco's 400 Gradi wood-fired pizza empire is rising like well-made dough. 

The award-winning pizza chef opened the original 400 Gradi in Brunswick East in 2009 and lit the ovens of Gradi at Crown in October last year.

His latest project is 400 Gradi in Essendon, a 220-seat restaurant on the ground floor of the Mink Apartments, which opened on Wednesday.

400 Gradi's award-winning margherita pizza.
400 Gradi's award-winning margherita pizza. Photo: Wayne Taylor

There's seating for 50 upstairs, which doubles as a private dining room, and up to 50 seats outside, with the main dining room next to the open kitchen.

The interior, designed by South Melbourne studio Lombard & Jack, is moody with dark grey walls punctuated by textured wood panelling and black-and-white tiling.

Di Francesco's menu is consistent with his other venues: salumi, antipasti and, of course, his Neopolitan-style pizzas.

Executive chef Harry Lilai and owner Johnny Di Francesco at 400 Gradi in Essendon.
Executive chef Harry Lilai and owner Johnny Di Francesco at 400 Gradi in Essendon. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

Harry Lilai, until recently the owner-chef at Fitzroy's Town Hall Hotel, has come on board as executive chef of the Gradi Group, raising the menu bar with trademark dishes, including gnocchi di patate with 20-year-old balsamic vinegar and black garlic, and slow-cooked capretto with lemon, paprika and white wine.

Next up for Di Francesco is Zero Gradi, the gelati store he hopes to open in February  at shop 1, 93-97 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, serving classic flavours (chocolate, vanilla and hazelnut) made on the premises.

400 Gradi in Essendon is open Mon-Wed 5pm-late and Thu-Sun noon-11pm.

Shop 1, 110 Keilor Road, Essendon, 03 9351 6690, 400gradi.com.au

Correction: The original version of this article published the wrong phone number for 400 Gradi. This has been updated above.