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Award-winning Italian restaurant 400 Gradi, founded in Melbourne, Australia by famed chef Johnny Di Francesco, is expanding its DFW presence with a second location, plus two new locations of its acclaimed dessert shop/gelateria Zero Gradi.

The restaurant will open in McKinney, at District 121, a $250 million mixed-use development at the northeast corner of State Highway 121 and Alma Road, adjacent to Craig Ranch.

The original 400 Gradi is in downtown Dallas. Di Francesco — a regular on Australian TV shows such as MasterChef Australia, The Mentor, and Everyday Gourmetopened the restaurant at the 2000 Ross Ave. building in 2019, also the first in the U.S.

Its authentic, Neapolitan-style ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, and flour imported from Italy, earned not only a loyal following but an award for best pizza in CultureMap’s annual Tastemaker Awards in 2022.

I mean, consider the Suprema pizza with fior di latte, pumpkin, arugula, pine nuts, and goat cheese. What is not to like.

Dessert expansion
In 2021, they opened a sweet spinoff next door to their downtown restaurant: Zero Gradi, with espresso, Italian-inspired pastries, and a gelateria with traditional gelato and sorbetto.

Now there will be two more Zero Gradis:

  • McKinney, also at District 121, at 6107 Alma Rd. in McKinney, adjoining 400 Gradi, just like the original in Dallas.
  • Frisco, at the Shops at Starwood, at 6975 Lebanon Rd. #307, in a former jewelry and perfume shop called Trends. This location will be a standalone shop.

400 Gradi principal Igor Stevovic says that the expansion north was prompted by demand from customers. That included David Craig, founder of District 121, who encouraged them to join the lineup at Craig Ranch, his mixed-use development at SH-121 and Alma Road.

“It was a natural expansion because we saw many customers coming from that area,” Stevovic says. “These were people traveling 30 minutes to downtown Dallas.”

However, their goal is not to have a 400 Gradi on every block.

“We care about producing high quality food from scratch, with hand made pasta and pizza dough that’s as authentic as possible,” Stevovic says. “That’s what is important to us. We’re the only restaurant in the U.S. that filtrates its water to achieve same degree of softness as in Napoli.”

“But we do feel like there’s an audience for a second Zero Gradi,” he says. “Our gelato, pastries, and bakery products are magnificent and people downtown have shown they appreciate that tremendously.”

Zero Gradi made CultureMap’s list of Best Desserts for Valentine’s Day 2022, where it was praised for its ice cream cakes and luscious almond croissant filled with almond custard and blueberry preserves, as well as its propensity for using pistachio nuts (instead of bottled paste) and hazelnuts from Piedmont, Italy, hailed by experts as the best hazelnuts in the world.

The shop also earned a nomination in CultureMap’s 2022 Tastemaker Awards for Best Pastry Chef Lizbeth “Lizzie” Ramirez.

Construction on the Frisco shop is just beginning, with a hoped-for opening by the end of the year; McKinney opens in early 2023.

“The population in Dallas is growing exponentially, with an increasingly sophisticated palate awareness,” Stevovic says. “For us, that’s good, since our food has an imcomparable authenticity.”

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