After closing his Cleveland Park restaurant Dino earlier this year, chef/owner Dean Gold officially opens his new spot, Dino’s Grotto, in Shaw tonight.
Some things you may recognize: Much of the art and tableware come from Dino. The popular Dino burger also makes its return. And several other customer favorites, like lasagna, boar pasta, and meatballs, get their own section on the menu under the header “regulars.” “People have been saying, ‘Are you going to have….at the new place.’ The list was very well-defined,” Gold says.
Dino’s Grotto’s menu, however, has a lot more “cicchetti” or snacks. “It’s not a small plates restaurant,” Gold says, but there are fewer entrees and pastas. “A lot of small plates are really just half-entrees,” he complains of other restaurants, but his “small plates” will be more in the true Italian form. “Small plates is a anchovy, and if it’s Venice, it’s got onions on it, and if it’s in Rome, it’s fried with cornmeal and served with a wedge of lemon. And that’s all it is. So we’re trying to have small plates that are more in that vein.”
Also new to the menu: octopus. Gold never sold the sea creature because it was unsustainable, but after learning that some sustainable seafood organizations had changed the rating for Spanish octopus from “avoid” to “good alternative,” he decided to give it a go on the menu.
While you will find many traditional Italian dishes as well as others highlighting local and seasonal ingredients, Dino’s Grotto also has what Gold describes as “wacky stuff” like trotter tots and duck schmaltz matzo ball soup. Eventually, the restaurant will roll out a late-night menu, too.
But one of the biggest differences between Dino and Dino’s Grotto is the larger focus on cocktails and the bar. There’s beer on tap, and Beverage Director Fabian Malone and “Cocktail Craftsman” John Dynan will prepare drinks with house-made syrups, shrubs, and infused spirits. The restaurant will even reserve seats for pairings of cocktails with three appetizers for around $40 at the downstairs bar.
Wine continues to be a priority for Gold, as well. His extensive list will include 20 Italian-focused wines by the glass from small wine producers using “old-fashioned techniques.” At the same time, Gold is jumping onto the recent craze for orange wine and offering a flight of these white wines that are fermented in the style of reds.
There will also be a daily happy hour at the downstairs bar with $5 select drafts, $2 off cocktails, $3 of eight-ounce glasses of wine, and at least one $18 bottle of wine. Gold imagines he’ll also have some of the daily specials that Dino was known for.
Dino’s Grotto, 1914 9th St. NW; (202) 686-2966; dino-dc.com
Photo courtesy Dino’s Grotto