Now he’s ventured further out into Victoria with his first spot near the water – down at Mornington, where he’s got a prominent corner spot on the town’s main drag. It’s the sixth 400 Gradi location in Australia, with another in Adelaide (a Yarra Valley outpost has since closed). And for the first time, all three concepts – 400 Gradi, Zero Gradi and Gradi Mercato – share a single space.
“What better coastal area in Victoria than Mornington Peninsula to be the first seaside venue for 400 Gradi,” Di Francesco tells Broadsheet. “We’re also very excited to feature and support local vineyards and produce across the menu, which nods to our love for Italian coastal living.”
The restaurant is split into two levels, with a casual wine and snack bar downstairs and a seated dining space with standalone bar and spacious balcony (sporting views of Port Phillip Bay) above.
Pierre Khodja, former Pinchy’s executive chef and owner of the now-closed Camus, has stepped into the role of chef de cuisine. Naturally, seafood features prominently on the menu, with oysters Kilpatrick; citrus-marinated hiramasa kingfish; local calamari with saffron aioli; pan-seared scallops with Jerusalem artichoke; linguine with prawns, mussels, clams and scallops; crab spaghetti with lobster bisque; and mussels in Napoli sauce with chargrilled bread on the side.
Nineteen of 400 Gradi’s famous pizzas are also on offer, including the margherita (which was once crowned the world’s best), a previous Guinness World Record holder for most varieties of cheese on a pizza (154, to be exact), and a tartufata with fior di latte, prosciutto, mushrooms and truffled cream. Plus, there are fresh pastas, hefty mains such as grass-fed Scotch fillet and roasted Murray cod, and desserts of classic tiramisu, Italian pavlova and a pistachio-lamington tart.
Downstairs, through a separate entrance, you’ll find Zero Gradi serving up 12 flavours of hand-churned gelato at any given time. In the display fridge now: a tropical mix of banana, coconut and passionfruit; classic pistachio; vegan strawberry and lemon; a Bounty bar-inspired flavour; and a decadent blend of peanut butter and Nutella. It’s also a patisserie, with croissants, cruffins, danishes and escargot pastries.
And out back is Gradi Mercato, a deli and grocer stocking salumi and cured meats, finish-at-home meals (including pizzas and pastas), woodfired sourdough, premium cheeses and staples like milk, free-range eggs and seasonal produce.