Over the years, I’ve been tough on Dean Gold’s Italian restaurant and enoteca in Cleveland Park. So tough, in fact, that I’m reminded of my own teenage experience in track and field, when, after I’d won three out of four competitions in the city championships, my father turned to me and said (and I paraphrase here), “You really need to work on your hurdles,” the lone event in which I didn’t place. It’s called tough love, and it doesn’t always feel good to be on the receiving end. But like my dear departed dad, I sometimes parcel out tough love to those places I’m particularly fond of—like Dino. Its owner-turned-chef’s commitment to regional Italian cooking is unimpeachable. So is his commitment to the ingredients that support this tradition, such as the cool and creamy burrata that Gold ships in twice a week from Puglia. Gold tends to find trouble when he pushes the boundaries of Italian cookery, like with his Tuscan banh mi (a fine take on the Vietnamese sandwich if not for the imbalance of bread to filling) or substitutes ingredients (such as his alternate Valentine’s Day scallops, which went down like baked leather). But day in and day out, Dino and its deep and daunting Italian wine list usually leave me in the mood to sing its praises, not bitch about its shortcomings.

3435 Connecticut Avenue NW (202) 686-2966

Photo by Darrow Montgomery