Dinner at Dino by way of San Marco

I really want to like Dino. Owner Dean Gold seems like such an interesting man, a true epicure, and his articles on Slow Travel show an appreciation for my favorite Italian city, Venice, which was further evinced by his using as the mascot for his restaurant its famous Lion of San Marco.

Unfortunately for me, what with the desire of the Cleveland Park neighborhood for a convivial enoteca and the Bush twins buying lion t-shirts, now everyone really likes Dino. Just like the tourist hordes that crowd Piazza San Marco! On a Saturday night it was jam-packed, including a large party in the private room, which made service painfully slow (a forty-five minute wait between appetizer and entree) and more than a little clumsy. This also made for an extremely noisy experience upstairs as people raised their voices high to be heard above the din.

My group of friends and I agreed that if we had only stayed at the little bar downstairs, our experience would have been perfect. We started out there with a great bartender who made perfect bellini for us and set out a plate of assorted crostini, taking us back to our Venetian holiday. I’d highly recommend the bar area, or aim to have your meal on off-peak hours.

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs
The overall decor is rather basic, which is a pity as Yanyu, the restaurant that used to occupy the space, was one of the more elegant in the city. But that isn’t Dino’s aim, I suspect, which is more to have a comfortable, casual eatery with a focus on fresh ingredients and an amazing wine list. It doesn’t aim to be another high-end Italian restaurant, or a red-checkered tablecloth one, but somewhere in between.

Almost all of us were seduced by the Insalata di Mela, an apple salad with the holy trifecta of goat cheese, hazelnuts, and truffles. I had a savory special of pasta with gorgonzola. A friend particularly raved about her juicy pork loin, but another’s was too dry. Again, perhaps the crowd hampered consistency.

Now, a disclaimer – my grandfather was Torinese, I love eating in Italy, and it’s the main cuisine that I myself cook. So if I have a meal that I think – delicious, sure, but I could easily have made that myself – well, it’s satisfying but not earth-shattering. But again, I suspect the aim of Dino is to be satisfying and comforting, not a mind-blowing culinary circus.

Upon leaving we saw Dean himself working the front room with ease and a big smile. I’m happy that Dino’s a success, and I would return for cicchetti e l’ombra… but on a quiet night.

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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