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Washington: Dino

3435 Connecticut Avenue N.W. , Phone: 202-686-2966

Reviewed by: Aline from CT, review #2850

When: 2008

Dino is a restaurant serving rustic Italian food on Connecticut Avenue. The wine list is amazing!

Last weekend while visiting friends in D.C. I had a wonderful meal at Dino. The food is straightforward and very fresh.

We started with a salad of greens dressed in olive oil and lemon. The bread that we used to clean our plates was fantastic. I had ribbon pasta with wild boar and my friends ordered rockfish and pasta with spring vegetables. Everything was cooked perfectly and simply just like rustic Italian food in Italy would be prepared. No fussy pastas or invented Italian dishes.

The wine list was overwhelming so I stuck to the wines listed on the menu. The actual wine "book" is a tome for those who love and know Italian wines. Our Sangiovese (at $32.00 a bottle) was so good that we ordered two bottles!

I noticed a bar chock full of people when we came in. I suppose that locals spend lots of time sampling the hundreds of wines at this enoteca. I would strongly recommend you try Dino the next time you visit D.C.

Reviewed by: katecoleman from MA, review #1391

When: 2005

Truly spectacular food, beautiful place, wonderful staff - we loved it!

I took my extremely pregnant daughter and her husband to experience Dean's new restaurant while I was visiting them in the DC area. After reading the menu, and having followed the story of its "birth" on Slow Travel, I couldn't wait to try it for myself. Everything exceeded my expectations! Even more significantly to me, my kids are a lot closer to "getting it" when I rave on and on about Italy after trying the food at this wonderful place.

We arrived shortly before 8PM on the first Saturday evening the restaurant was open - standing room only crowd that was pleasantly and efficiently handled by the host. The decor was beautiful and very reminiscent of a small Tuscan trattoria- prettier than the website photos!(Dino Website)

I had expected to notice a few "growing pains" from such a new restaurant, but even with a crowd, not a problem was noticed.

We shared the scamorza and the quail for appetizers; both were wonderful. I loved the pomegranate vinaigrette on the quail -- tangyness/sweetness that offset the rich quail perfectly. The scamorza was also great, made with superb mozzarella.

For primi, I enjoyed the Pinci al Cinghiale, easily as good as anything I have enjoyed in Tuscany, not a bit too heavy, with a nice spiciness. And, Italian style, the sauce was truly a "condiment" to the excellent pasta, not overwhelming it. Charlie had the Sapori d’Estate, a nice summery veggie soup and was amazed by the subtle flavors. Laura tried the Zuppa di Cozze e Vongole and was blown away. The seafood was perfect, but the fettunta it was served on really got her attention. I believe the quote was a startled, "This olive oil is unbelieveably good!" After a sample, I had to agree.

We all had the grilled branzino for the main course -- literally the best fish I have eaten in this country (and we live on the Massachusetts coast....) Kids needed a "how does one handle a whole fish" lesson but were instant converts. Again, the oil added a wonderful dimension to the taste of the fish.

Charlie tried the limoncello tiramisu, a great twist that I thought was better than the standard. I thought the high point of the meal for Laura had been the fettunta, but I think it was the Panini al Nutella e Mascarpone ... another surprise of simple ingredients prepared perfectly. Truly delicious.

Charlie and I shared a bottle of the Maculan “Pinot e Toi,” a nice Pinot Grigio blend. We both enjoy wine but are not very knowledgable, and really loved the way the wines were organized and explained. The pricing is great! We also shared a serving of the Nardini Mandorla grappa - another revelation for Charlie, and one of the best I have ever enjoyed.

The entire staff was extremely professional, relaxed and gracious. I was struck by how well they worked as a team, especially for such a new place! Dean and Kay are wonderfully welcoming, we enjoyed meeting them and having a chance to chat. They obviously love what they are doing and it shows in every detail of this restaurant. My soon-to-arrive granddaughter received a tiny "Dino" T-shirt - we can't wait to come back and show her off while enjoying another suberb meal!

Pricing was very reasonable for quality of the meal - less than $150 dollars including wine, grappa, coffee, etc. One of the best values in this expensive city!

Reviewed by: Chiocciola from DC, review #1393

When: 2005

Very authentic Italian restaurant, with food from Venice and Southern Tuscany. The best Italian food I have had in DC.

Directions: Easy to find, very close to Cleveland Park Metro Station

I visited Dino on Saturday, July 9th, on its fourth day of operation, and had an amazing time. The restaurant is located in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, DC, on the busy Connecticut Avenue. It is only a block away from the Cleveland Park Metro Station, which makes the restaurant accessible from all parts of the city.

The restaurant is easy to find and occupies a piece of prime real estate. It is on a corner, allowing the first floor dining room windows on two sides. I was very impressed with the interior of Dino. The walls are a wonderful gold color, there is a lot of artwork on the walls, and the lighting is outstanding. We got there right before 9, and sat at the bar for a couple of minutes while waiting for a table. We got seated in the beautiful first floor section and marveled at the interior.

The menu was great, and I got progressively more excited while reading it. The restaurant aims to provide rustic dishes from Venice and Southern Tuscany, the favorite regions of owners Kay and Dean. We decided on the saltimbocca meatballs and a plate of the affetati misti for our antipasti, and I also had a cup of soup, the “Sapori d’Estate - Summer veggies with broth and speck and a touch of pesto." Then we ordered lasagna and sea bass for our secondi. I have to say, the soup was my favorite - it was out of this world. All the flavors complemented each other wonderfully, and on top there was a small piece of toasted bread with pesto, and the garlicky flavor of the pesto was just amazing; it made the soup so great.

Our secondi were also great, and the waiter (who had previously "warned" me that the fish would come out whole, "looking at you") showed me the best way to cut it. The lasagne was very tasty, according to my fellow eater. By then, we were too full for dessert, so we just stared longingly at the desserts and vowed to come back soon!

I was really impressed with the fact that many things came in two sizes, like most of the antipasti and primi. We had the "small" plate of affetati misti, and it was huge! The mortadella was great, and so were the cheese and the salami that came along with it. I also had the small cup of soup, which was perfect. This way I can actually eat several dishes, which I never do in American restaurants, simply because I get full! And you can order many of the wines by the ombra, 3 ounzes, or quartin, 8 ounzes, which is great since you can get a taste of several wines that way. I didn't have any wine, but the wine list is extensive and I liked the way it was divided by flavor (light, full, etc.)

Also, I found the menu to be reasonably priced, especially because you can order things in different sizes. You can have a great meal of cicchetti (think Venetian tapas) and antipasti. The most expensive dishes on the menu are 18 dollars. Our bill came to 54 dollars for two people. This did not include alcohol, but lots of food: two appetizers, a soup, and two main dishes.

The waiters were knowledgeable and discreet, and it was a real pleasure to meet the owners.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience and the best Italian food I have had in Washington, DC. Everything seemed to run very smoothly, and the place looks fantastic. I am going back soon, and then I will have only antipasti, cicchetti, and lots of dessert...

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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