Last August, Tom and Tiff checked out Dino for Restaurant Week. I was jealous. It sounded delicious, and the menu changes seasonally, so a group of girlfriends and I chose Dino as our big Restaurant Week pick this go-round. We certainly weren’t disappointed. Dino, unlike most other places, was offering their entire menu for RW diners, along with crostini and a complimentary glass of grappa, limincello or muscato. It was a truly thrifty deal, and cheesy tasty to boot! Plus I love it when places embrace Restaurant Week for what it is, and make it worth the diners time by allowing us to try anything we want off the main menu. It enables a place to show off, and I always think it’s admirable when a restaurant decides it can handle whatever the crowds throw at it.
We sat down at Dino and were immediately impressed- the menu is huge, and the choices can be overwhelming. There’s antipasti, oggi, pasta, formaggi, secondi, and plentiful options for dessert. The menu is rustic Italian featuring the flavors of Venice and Southern Tuscany – we were in for a treat.
Located right off the metro at Cleveland Park, the web site of Dino says “We are a crowded, noisy, tightly spaced restaurant” and they’re not lying! A lively chatter fills the tight space, and tables are close together with only squeezing room between. They pack people in, but it’s worth it, the fresh thoughtful food keeps people coming back for more.
We started the meal with the pear salad. Described as “heirloom pears poached in spiced Chianti, stuffed with Gorgonzola-mascarpone cream with greens in a sherry vinegar dressing & crostini with roasted garlic” it kicked our meal off right. The greens were mostly arugula, and the sherry vinegar dressing was a perfect balance to the poached pears. We shared the Bufala Cheese as well. With a mozzarella outside, stuffed with curds and cream decorated with olive & red pepper tapenades, roasted tomato, olio, basil it was a cold, fresh treat. Also at our table was the Fried Mozzarella di Bufala, much like mini grilled cheeses. The cheese was served between challah bread with Sicilian anchovies mixed into the cheese and a spicy tomato and red pepper sauce to dip the sandwich in.
All that with the fresh bread and crostini, and we were already full. Then came the main course. I ordered the flat iron steak which came flavorful and tender, along with a drizzle of blood orange – anchovy salsa verde with old Villa Manodori balsamico, which I loved. I couldn’t get enough. The Tuscan potatoes were crispy and done just right. I was thrilled with my entree and finished everything despite my already-expanding tummy. If you’re a steak lover at all, this is a dish to try.
Also at our table was the linguine with hand-made sausage and mahogany clams, rapini, and a summer heirloom tomato sauce. The linguine was delicate and the pasta was overflowing with clams and clam shells. The lasagna was also a hit, Dino bills it as “a very non-traditional, over-the-top version with house made pasta sheets, pork & veal ragu, fonduta, crispy bacon, grana cheese” – pale pink in color, and overflowing with cheese and pasta, the bit I tasted was great.
Finally, we tried the desserts. Tiramisu is a rare treat for me, so I ordered it despite now being full past capacity. I also was able to try the fresh sorbets (I recommend the pear) and the housemade gelatos – the creamy pistachio was my favorite. I was impressed with the dessert selection, when I go back I want to try the Manodori Balsamico con Gelato, a vanilla gelato topped with Villa Manodori Basamico – I love dessert vinegar, and in the summer can dip strawberries in a nice balsamic, so I’m interested to try this traditional Modena dish. Pair that with a glass of moscato, stick a fork in it and I’m done. You can’t beat Dino for a perfect Italian night out. I’m just jealous of all of you lucky enough to live in Cleveland Park near Dino – I don’t think I’d tire of trying the different things on the menu.
Dino Logo courtesy of Flickr User Shawn.L, whose design firm actually designed the Dino logo!