Since 2005, Dino has been a staple in the Cleveland Park restaurant scene. With a prime location right on the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Ordway Street, it was a neighborhood gathering place that had a very loyal clientele, and that was able to satisfy the appetites of those seeking rustic Italian fare. In late 2013, news broke that Chef Owner Dean Gold was going to be closing his outpost as a result of challenges with the current lease, and an unfortunate downturn in business. However, Dean was optimistic that this was not the end for Dino, and within the past month a new iteration of Dino has opened up in Shaw, called Dino's Grotto.
Dino's Grotto sports a much larger bar area than the previous location, which includes 10 seats on the main level of the restaurant, as well as a 14 seat bar on the bottom level of the rowhouse on 9th Street NW. In addition, there is also a large communal table on the lower level which will satisfy those in favor of a fun and open meal. The interior is simple with no frills, and leaves the focus of the experience on the food and drink. Favorites included the fried artichokes which are a staple of my diet when in Italy, and the classic meatballs that were kept on the menu from the old Dino. The duck fat fried potatoes are a standout, and the fusili al forno with Border Springs lamb meatballs and smoked mozzarella will delight any diner looking for a comforting dish.
The dessert fest included a decadent cheese plate, tiramisu, a light cheesecake, and the gianduja "nico", which won my heart. The dessert is bittersweet chocolate gelato with chopped chocolate, and hazelnut gelato with toasted hazelnuts. It's then topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. It was a sweet end to a decadent meal.
Dino's Grotto also offers an extensive and sophisticated wine list with a playful twist. Wines are described as "wacky", "funky challenging", "quaffable", and "bracing." Those who were regulars at the old Dino will find much that they loved at the original spot including the cinghiale and the free form lasagnette. For those who have never dined at Dino, they will find much to explore and enjoy.