Thursday, July 27, 2006

terrific Tuscan dining at DINO's

We tried Dino's only once before and had such a good experience with Samuel and the food we decided to return last night along with Samuel's 8-year old cousin and her dad visiting us for several days.

We know that DINO's ( at 3435 Connecticut Ave, NW (across from the Uptown Theater) was featuring Tuscan dishes this month and decided that would be fun as well, knowing that the kids could always get their plain pasta with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.

We were in the same wonderful corner booth upstairs which keeps Samuel kind of caged in as well, although the restaurant had an air conditioning issue with freon earlier in the day, so the temperatures hovered over 80 degrees in the dining room. We aimed the cooler next to our table right at us and sat down to enjoy a wonderful meal, if a bit on the warm side.

BELLINI ROSSOs started us off which is Italian dry sparkling prosecco with Blood Orange has a red color from the blood orange, hence "rosso." They were yummy and the kids enjoyed Shirley Temples. I had never had BURRATA before, and this magnificent cheese concoction is actually airlifted from Campania twice a week directly to Dino's door. It is a Bufala Mozzarella wrapped around ricotta and served with Olive Tapenade, Olio DiConciliius and Tomato Basil--simple YET SUPER!

We ordered a bottle of 2005 CANTINA NALLES "GALEA" red from Alto Adige. This wine is served chilled and is made from the Schiava grape from South Tirol, and was refreshing, dry and simple, not overwhelming; basically fun. Our first courses came with Will trying the excellent PANZANELLA, a Tuscan salad of Tomato and couscous and me gulping down the tasty INSALATA di RADICCHIO which were delicious greens paired with Purple Beets Sliced and layered with Goat Cheese.

Dino's has small plates, large plates, half plates and many options. During the Tuscan specialties month of July (check dates at the website) we opted for four courses each. My next was RIBOLITA, a traditional Tuscan vegetable broth with bread chunks and pesto and Will went for the LINGUINE with Garlic, which was loaded with cooked cloves that we smashed and spread on the bread as well!

My pasta was the PAPPARDELLE ai CINGHIALE, long ribbons of homemade pasta with a spicy wild boar meat sauce that was heavenly. At this point we switched wines and could not resist the magnificent and reasonably priced wine list (with discounts offered Sunday-Wed as well). A 1999 (that spectacular year) ARGIANO BRUNELLO di MONTALCINO was poured and literally tasted like silk; it was a dream, and drank so beautifully despite its youth. Will had the perfect dish with this as well, a Tuscan PEPPOSA of braised beef.

Our final course was the SPIEDINO di SALSICCIE di CINGHIALE or a skewer of Wild Boar Sausage with veggies (tomato, zucchini, onion) over polenta. It was yummy and went wonderfully with the wine as well. Will's cousin-in-law loved his simple TUNA barely seared and served with basil olive oil and the excellent LASAGNA. Once can eat elegantly or simply at DIno's as there are just so many options. DULCE di LECHE Ice Cream and Strawberry & Blueberry Sorbets came for those of use who could manage another bite before rolling home quite full.

When we return next, I am ready for a tasting and lots more of the great cheeses and wines that owner Dean Gold really knows how to serve!