Just Open: Gradi at Crown

Award-winning pizzaiolo Johnny di Francesco at the new Gradi.
Award-winning pizzaiolo Johnny di Francesco at the new Gradi. Photo: Paul Jeffers

After 12 months of planning, Gradi, the collaboration between Crown and Johnny di Francesco of Brunswick’s 400 Gradi pizzeria, throws open its doors on Tuesday after a soft opening last week.

The space that once housed Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons has been dressed in lots of chocolate brown leather, dark wood tables and marble finishes. There's a private dining room, a chef's table by the kitchen and a bar with seating for 50, where a smart cicchetti menu includes a salumi selection, including a rarely seen prosciutto aged for 30 months, cheeses and small plates such as polenta fritta and beef carpaccio.

The menu in the 200-seat dining room has pizza, of course, fired in two Stefano Ferrara wood ovens imported from Naples, pasta made in a temperature-controlled room in the back of the kitchen, and mains such as veal cotoletta, grilled seafood and slow-cooked duck. The wine list is all-Italian and cocktails and aperitivi are long on Aperol and Campari.

The scale of the venture is a big step for di Francesco but one he is happy about. "I am seeing Melbourne from a different perspective," he says. "A move like this has given me more energy."

Gradi at Crown is open daily for lunch and dinner at shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, 9696 9888, gradiatcrown.com