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Dino, rustic Italian restaurant in Cleveland Park, Washington DC

Ristorante Dino in Cleveland Park is a great spot for a celebration. Its convivial atmosphere, warm service, and dinner and drink deals pretty much ensure a long, satisfying, and boozy meal, all at a bargain (excluding the price you pay the next morning before work).

For Restaurant Week, which goes through September 6, the wine specials apply and the regular 3-course meal deal (normally at $39) is sweetened with the addition of dessert wine or house made ‘-cello’.

The menu has a bewildering number of options, even for vegetarians. Any pasta can be selected as an appetizer or entree on top of the long list of both appetizers and entrees. Vegetarian and vegan items are designated with a (vg) or (vgn), although the menu online isn’t quite accurate – more of the items are listed as veggie-friendly in the restaurant than on the website – so take another look when you get there.

Perfect stuffed squash blossoms

We enjoyed the beets in yogurt, squash blossoms and All’Aglione pasta to start. Fennel, cumin and ginger all stood out in a fresh take on beets. The squash blossoms were the best of the three versions we tried during Restaurant Week (I know, I know…I’m hitting the gym): crispy fried, stuffed with herbed ricotta and served over spicy marinara. The All’Aglione was simple and delicious as well, featuring rustic wide pasta, whole roasted tomatoes and whole roasted garlic:

All’Aglione – pappardelle with tomatoes and garlic

We’d tried the burrata and deep fried baby artichokes on previous visits. The burrata is well-complemented by tangy tomato and red pepper sauces, but the artichokes are disappointingly bland so take a pass despite the drool-inducing description.

I’m a sucker for eggplant parmesan and was happy with Dino’s version, which is a dish of local eggplant and tomatoes topped with three outstanding cheeses, baked-not-fried until golden and bubbly:

Eggplant alla “Parmigiana”

The risotto (confirmed vegetarian) was also very good, well-flavored with sweet crunchy bites of corn and green beans.

For dessert our table ordered pretty much everything: tiramisu, plum crumble, baked peaches, ‘grown up’ sorbet, chocolate torta, and gelato topped with aged balsamic vinegar. Our favorite was the tart plum crumble with outstanding black pepper gelato:

Triple Spiced Plum Crumble

We also enjoyed vanilla gelato with savory, syrupy balsamic, perfect for ‘non-dessert’ people, and buttery baked local peaches, perfect for sweet-lovers. The chocolate torta and tiramisu were both solid but a little less exciting, and the sorbet trio was hit or miss (strawberry margarita was spot on but the rhubarb and blackberry were not very intense).

Our postprandial offerings included orange-cello, which was a bit too perfumed (a companion said it was like drinking a house cleaner, but in the most pleasant way possible). The house-made moscato, on the other hand, was delicate and yummy.

Service was fantastic throughout the night, starting at the bar with wine and antipasti (including my favorite bright green Castelvetrano olives), continuing through all three courses and culminating in the moment that our server noticed that there was only one more bottle of the $18 red wine special we were drinking and held it for us in case we wanted more. We did.

I’m going to keep Dino in mind for my next special occasion, because I know the food will be good and the service will be great.

3435 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008
Next to Cleveland Park Metro station

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