If you’ve ventured to 400 Gradi in Brunswick since Johnny Di Francesco was named World Champion at the Campionato Mondiale Della Pizza (the granddaddy of pizza competitions, held in Naples), you’ll have been greeted by the kind of queues that can bring out the hangry in anyone.
Lucky, then, that Johnny’s about to throw open the doors to a sleek 50-seat wine bar next door. No mere holding pen for the permanently rammed restaurant, 400 Gradi Cicchetti is a drawcard in its own right. Interiors whizz Pascale Gomes-McNabb has leant her industrial-chic expertise to the space, with plenty of polished concrete, chocolate-brown banquettes and a clutch of exposed light globes.
The 80-strong wine list celebrates the best of Italy and Oz, along with the odd nod to Champagne. And each night Johnny will pop open four top-shelf bottles for guests to try in 75ml tastes. “I know myself that when I see a $300 bottle of wine in a restaurant, I want to know what it tastes like, but I don’t necessarily want to splash out on the whole bottle,” says Johnny.
There’s also a carefully crafted list of Euro-leaning cocktails, pepped up with Campari, Aperol and other party-starting Italian sips. “We’re going to offer food matches for both the wine and the cocktails,” explains Johnny.
And that food will stay true to Johnny’s Italian roots. Inspired by the cicchetti bars in Venice, where guests enjoy savoury snacks with a glass of wine, the menu will feature a slew of bite-sized delights, with nothing priced over $15. From the salumi counter, order Marchetti smallgoods and imported 30-month-old prosciutto, sliced to order and served by the gram, perfect for those who like a little of this and a lot of that.
Make a meal of it with a pick-and-mix selection of cured meats and buffalo mozzarella, or linger over a few share plates before slipping next door for one of those top-rated pizzas. Keep an eye out for 400 Gradi Cicchetti in the coming weeks.
99 Lygon St, Brunswick
(03) 9380 2320