When it opened downtown on Monday—practically next door to its sister pizzeria 400 Gradi—Australian mini-chain Zero Gradi Gelateria and Dessert Bar brought scoops and other sweets to Dallas just as it opened two new outposts of the Melbourne-based sensation founded by Australian celebrity chef Johnny Di Francesco. As such, our scoop shop is the fourth location and yet the first outside its home turf.
There is much to say about the quality of pastries it’s ushering in, such as the beautiful, flaky tradition of cornetti, akin to croissants, which are made in-house by pastry chef Lizbeth Ramirez. COVID delayed the opening, and now it’s finally realized, after three weeks of Zoom training with the Australian pastry team. The proper appellation for the bright, modern shop would be a gelateria and pasticceria, but dessert bar is descriptive enough and captures the essence of what they’re doing. On the morning side, this means Italian coffee ordered from the menu that’s set against glistening aqua-colored tile: a cappuccino or Nutella latte or café ristretto doused over a scoop of gelato for a decadent affogato.
Note, when I say excellent pastries, I mean a bronzed, chubby brioche brimming with vanilla-bean pastry cream and delicately sprinkled with sugar pearls; a croissant banded with Nutella layers or filled with frangipane and blueberries; or a lemon-pie croissant with a torched meringue top and brightest lemon curd within. Nearby, a case holds more elaborate pastries, like tiny, gorgeous jewel-box cakes: mousse-y bites and brilliant combinations of flavors.
But gelato, certainly, is the thing you want to know about—20 flavors churned on-site that range from bright lemon-rosemary sorbetto to salted caramel pecan. A few are American nods, but mostly the Italian classics of dense, nutty pistachio and hazelnut (bearing their natural colors) or chocolate-strafed stracciatella.
They’re beautifully made. And for those with a penchant, white-chocolate and Nutella fountains stand ready to douse the inside of your cone. Little tubs of perfectly roasted hazelnuts and pistachios and amareno cherries are the only toppings. Tradition dictates simplicity and a respect for ingredients.
As we swelter, it’s time to consider ice cream, gelato, soft serve—what you will. Our sweet, cool saviors. As someone who works downtown, I know I’m grateful to have this kind of happiness at my fingertips.