Dec. 2017: ‘400 Gradi’ opens its first international restaurant in Bahrain. Ever heard of 400 Gradi? Maybe if you are from down under, or a cruise ship or two, but as a franchise, branch or whatever the setting is in another country……… then probably not! Mind you, 400 Gradi is such a common name for a restaurant or anything for that matter…..not, how could you not know?
This video turns out to be another FREE ad really, but interesting nonetheless, so we filmed a bit while sampling their rather extensive Italian fare and sat down to talk to the owner. Why did we do it?
A) Heeeerrrrr’s Johnny…..is a very-very nice chap and he opened his ‘first international branch/franchise/restaurant’ in Bahrain, in a brand new mall which is sort of interesting in itself.
B) Um.. can’t think of any other reason. We weren’t even invited either. Cue: ‘Please Donate’ button, pizza’s welcome. A small explanation is at the end of this spiel.
Although originally from Naples (near Australia), Johnny Di Francesco has Sicilian blood, so here he ‘makes us an offer we can’t refuse’ without a machine gun in sight, explaining how it all began and what’s on offer.
Now, owning up to being a little unthorough (no such word probably), Who Does What failed to ask dear Johnny; ‘Why the hell Bahrain for his first one’? How did you come up with a name like ‘400 Gradi’? The excuse is good though, so hang on. No, not the reason for coming to Bahrain or the name, but why we didn’t ask him.
Oh yes; nice views, smashing location, yuppy as it gets and pretty damn good food when all is said and done. No booze, but hey, the century is still young. It is Italian through and through but a tad warmer in decor than your average Italian lay out. The restaurant has a very good feel about it and in an extremely over crowded market which is um… er… over crowed with none to well off people, so it needs to be a cut above or you wont need to make a reservation too often. Having said that, with all the media there, the place was indeed full and it just looked so good with all their staff hot on the job actually knowing exactly what they were doing, which is unusual for a launch whereby the whole thing often turns frantic. It was frantic, but good, quick and clean, plus a modicum of friendliness with the waiters as if they were not meekly afraid of customers and more ready to jibe along. Maybe that is Johnny’s Ozzy modus.
The Avenues Mall is a fine and huge piece of real estate and for sure it is going to see good footfall, that is if the endearing public ever figure out how to get into the damn place and worse still, out at the end of your visit. Elsewhere on whodoeswhat.tv, we review the new VOX MAX cinema, which also opened on the same day. Indeed the same hour. This will definitely attract punters. Along side is; ‘Theatre by Rhodes’, which is also a dining experience as is about another 20 other outlets – or soon to be in the Mall. So why Johnny’s place? ‘Sorry, forgot to ask him.
Obviously 400 Gradi caught the eye of the massive Al Shaya group out of Kuwait and will become a regional franchise. It is no coincidence that Al Shaya own The Avenues Mall in Bahrain and Kuwait to boot. Al Shaya has gotten into many other food concerns in the last decade or so. Starbucks, Pizza Express to Cheesecake Factory to so many more now, although he started out in fashion; Debenhams, Dorethy Perkins, Top Shop, River Island and so on. Now then; to the knowledge of the team at ADmaze Media and whodoeswhat.tv, we’ve never come across an Al Shaya outlet selling alcohol.
We could be well wrong and 400 Gradi is a runaway success, let’s hope so for the sake of it. But sad in a way, because 400 Gradi screams out for a nice dry Italian Verdicchio in hand, sitting on the veranda looking out over Bahrain Bay in the cooler months as you tuck into your Italian comestibles. Which reminds us of a joke; Margret Thatcher berating a cannibal for eating human flesh. She says; ‘That is detestable’! To which the cannibal replies in a strong African accent; ‘Oooo nooo Maaam, dee testibles is dee nicest bits’.
Bahrain Bay has the Four Seasons hotel which is certainly not dry, although other hotels within are reported to be. What this means is that the area can perch itself within the ‘tourist belt’, so a tipple licence is allowed if you pay enough. Times are a changing, with cinemas in Saudi and a woman might ‘drive’you there. This ‘drive’ is for the all new tourism dream and to get off the hard line Islamic stance. No, sit down at the back, this is serious, it is happening and you thought; not in your life time. So who knows, at the rate things are going and the astounding changes the world is witnessing regarding Bahrain’s dear neighbours, we might even see a drop of the hard stuff appearing without a near death sentence wrath attached. So what would Bahrain do under such circumstances? Kuwait couldn’t care less what Saudi or Bahrain does on that front. It is unlikely they will ever change now, having been much more relaxed back in the early 70s and 80s. Needless to say really, for the leisure and tourism business to remain sort of ‘sophisticated’ in Bahrain and attract the 400 Gradi clientele, perhaps someone might have to wander off the high moral perch and see how it goes. It is of course a two edge sword. Many a Muslim will not go near a place that sells booze (for the moment anyway), so there is a perceivable market loss, which might not equal the market gain for the drinkers. Fortunately, Bahrainis by and large might follow their own rules ‘religiously’, but there are not so many zealots as their are hard liners as to stop others partaking in their vice and even sitting beside while they do.
The sit down with Johnny was a little impromptu as was the entire shoot. Whodoeswhat,tv were invited to witness the opening of the spanking new VOX MAX cinema along with Theatre by Rhodes, which is all the way down the deep end of the mall, 425 miles from the other entrance. That is if you happen to make the mistake of parking at the other end because you didn’t know that the Cinema complex is at the Harbour entrance. Ok, cleared that up. So, walking back from the cinema to the car which indeed was parked at the other end (new mall, new cinema who knew), camera, mics and lights in hand and pack lunch with water canteen for the arduous journey, we had no idea about 400 Gradi. After 4 days and 3 nights walking, we came upon a busy outlet which sort of looked like a restaurant. There was a red carpet and escorts standing at the entrance. That is ‘escorts’ as in PR maitre d’, those who welcome you and escort you to a table. Ok, cleared that up too. To be honest, the intention was to just pass on by thinking that ‘this is nothing to do with us’, when suddenly a charming young lady who we did not know rushed to greet saying ‘Hi Geg, welcome come on in’. Hello! (The proof is in the video). Seeing many other journalists and media riffraff like ourselves tucking into steaks and pizzas, the thought crossed our minds to perhaps sneak a preview. The rest is history.