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Jun 3, 2007 06:37 PM

Brief review of Dino

Had an early reservation on a rainy night. At first, our server could only be described as snotty. Didn't tell us about off menu specials (we heard the other server tell her tables about them) and didn't seem interested in our experience at all. Once we asked for our bottle of wine, server seemed to be more interested...but it didn't last...

We had the roman grilled vegetables (I think that's the right descrptions) plus the roasted garlic, and then 1/2 orders of the lamb pasta and boar pasta. The food was very good. The roasted vegetables were very oily, but otherwise I can't complain about the food. What I can complain about was the service...

We had to ask for water refills. We heard other servers explain in great gustatory details aspects of the menu (written and unwritten) that we did not hear. At one point, a hawaiian shirted man (Dean, himself?) was so busy in conversation with a table near us that my progress to my own table (after going to the bathroom) was impeded. Throughout the evening, we witnessed othter tables getting much more attention, receiving much more information and generally having a better experience than us. The place was nearly empty. Perhaps most of the seated tables were regulars, and we were not...but I can say that we will not become regulars.

A restaurant's reputation is not just built on food or wine. And a patron's experience is not just based on what happens at his/her table. It's based on his/her observations of the entire experience. I can say that I will not hurry back to Dino. I like the food and I love the concept, but the execution was very poor.

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  1. Did you say anything to your server, or ask for a manager?

    Seems like a loss to YOU if you won't return to the place, when you admit that you enjoyed the food, and didn't give management a chance to correct the errors of a single server that you observed not being up to the example of the rest of the servers.

    2 Replies
    1. re: DanielK

      Well, I've never been to Dino, so my comments here are general rather than specific... but I can see dcandohio's point. One of my pet peeves are restaurants where the "special" people get attention from the owner and demonstrably better service than peons off the street. Even my favorite restaurants only get my patronage once or month or so... and that's not often enough to obtain the VIP treatment. I'd rather go to a place that gives considerate service to everyone.

      1. re: jmasek

        It's quite natural, and unexceptional to me, that regulars receive "special" attention at a restaurant. After all, they have (i) demonstrated a commitment to and enthusiasm for the restaurant, for which the place is naturally grateful; and (ii) developed a relationship with the staff.

        Which does *not* mean that bad or inattentive service is acceptable for non-regulars. Sounds as if you had a dud waiter. But don't asume that's representative of the restaurant. From what I can tell, Dean Gold, the proprietor, genuinely cares that all patrons have an enjoyable meal, and bends over backwards to try to make that happen. I've only been once, but he was very eager to help me find a (reasonably priced) bottle of very good wine, and we had a really great meal and very good service.

        You shouldn't have received lousy service -- but you probably should also bring it to the attention of the restaurant and see what happens.

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. I have been to Dino a few times in recent months since moving up to Cleveland Park. I have never met the owner and haven't received any sort "special" treatment. That being said the service in my experience has always been friendly and competent, if not overly polished. Maybe you caught them on a bad night.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chickenlover

          Then perhaps I should be eating there with you!
          The two things that keep me from having a meal there are the service and the excessive olive oil on the vegetarian dishes I have orders, but I admit that might be a preference. I've found them over-oiled which I can deal with.

          However, the times I've eaten there, the wine guy has talked down to us, the wait staff has either completely ignored us or rushed us to, I suppose, encourage turn over.

          When these things happen once or twice, and the food is good, I usually give places a few more tries. I'd love to have had good service there - I can ignore the oil and the salt because that's personal preference.

          Could just be me that the wait staff treats poorly! lol

        2. We had a very enjoyable time at Dino's last night on the patio -- some appetizers which included the garlic and gorgonzola which was really excellent and a bean salad with chicken -- and then really good and unusual flavored sorbet (prosecco, basil/ginger and blueberry) for dessert along with a very good chocolate souffle cake. While our waiter was not as experienced as others in the past he did a good job -- it's some of the best, reasonably priced food in the area - so would encourage a return trip. sorry to hear you had such a bad experience - -

          1 Reply
          1. re: kaozer

            We were also on the patio last night, and also had an excellent meal. The highlights were the wild boar pasta, the linguini with pesto, the cheese plate, the fried calamari, the wine recommended by the waiter, and two desserts: the strawberry-and-rhubarb tort, and the crepes. We also enjoyed the olives. Only the plate of cured meats didn't do much for me. When the bill came, I couldn't believe how much a party of four had spent for such a meal.

            The service was fine.

            When I first went to Dino, in November 2005, the service was not fine; it was lacking. Our entrees took forever, and we could not have dessert, because we had to make a movie. Management knew about the problem, apologized (all we expected), and took 50% off the check (more than we expected). This is how to win fans!

          2. I have been to Dino maybe a half a dozen times since it opened. Most of the time I go with the DC Crü, a joke name from the group of wine buddies I hang out with. We usually are seated upstairs and yes, we usually get a bit more attention.

            It's too bad you had a bad experience there. If it is convenient for you to get there again, maybe give it another try if you find yourself with nothing else to do and are hungry. Otherwise, you are certainly entitled to not go back. We all make choices like that, myself included. But for me, I choose to go back to Dino. I like the food and concept and service I have received thus far.


            5 Replies
            1. re: Pool Boy

              I ate at Dino a couple weeks ago. We ate outside on a cool night, which was great. Overall our waitress was more than polite, and didn't seemed to mind our plans to eat a long, slow dinner that consisted entirely of appetizers and wine. The crepes were a personal favorite of mine.

              My only complaints was the overabundance of olive oil that seemed to be on every dish, and the fact that the prosciutto antipasto was nothing more than a plate of sliced meat. I guess I am just used to my uncle's famous antipasto (which includes romaine, olives, meats, cheeses, etc..) at family gatherings.

              All in all, I would definitely dine there again.

              1. re: dbound

                With your strong family tradition of specific ingredients in an antipasto platter, I certainly can see why you aren't thrilled by Dino's version, but you might be interested to learn that the meat-only version is a classic in Parma and Bologna.

                Last night, we got back from a trip to Italy that included time in Parma and Bologna (12 meals worth of time). I can tell you with certainty that in both Parma and Bologna, the list of antipasti is quite often limited to choices among platters of different types of cured meats. You could choose a plate of prosciutto or a plate of culatello or a plate of salumi. Some restaurants included a plattet of mixed meats, but your uncle's version was no where in sight. Eating lunch in Sorelle Picchi, a combination salumeria and trattoria in Parma, we had to order melon as a separate menu item in order to eat prosciutto and melon. I don't believe this single-minded focus on cured meats existed in Ravenna, in the eastern portion of Emilia-Romagna. But it definitely existed in the DOP ham territory around Parma and Bologna.

                1. re: Indy 67

                  i went to Dino on saturday night and i got the antipasti della case, it had meats, cheese and veggies, maybe that is what you were looking for. Sadly though it didnt have any of the proscuttio on it.

                  1. re: elegantelliot

                    Agreed, I realized my mistake clearly when I had another chance to look at the menu again once our food had arrived. Clearly my family experiences skewed my overall impression of what antipasto "should" be. (Not to say that any one way is correct). I simply stated the observation, because it took me (personally) by surprise. Next time I'll be sure to try the antipasto della case.

                    One other thing, I didn't mention, that I was very impressed with was the wine selection. I consider myself a novice when it comes to Italian wines, having considerably more experience with Bordeaux, so the descriptions and layout of the wine offerings was very helpful.

                    We also went their on a Wednesday night, in which they offer wine specials so it was fun to try their flights of wine.

                    1. re: dbound

                      Dean opened the restaurant mainly so he could indulge his passion for Italian wines. You should go on a Sunday night when all wines over $50 are one third off. With the fantastic prices already on his list, that deal is a steal. It also allows you to try some of the better wines that you might not be willing to pull the trigger on otherwise (even with the exceptionally reasonable prices)