Hey, D.C. restaurants. We’re going to let you in on a really smart marketing trick. Here goes …
First, get one really lovely local food blogger to reach out to every other food blogger in town. Then, invite them all to brunch together at your restaurant.
Next, add a steep discount, lots of mimosas, passed dishes to sample, your jovial chef making his rounds at the table, and 50 cell phones.
Genius, Dino. Genius.
But even without the steep blogger discount that we got that day, Dino’s brunch is still worth the chatter. For $25 you choose (1) a starter or half pasta, (2) a brunch plate, full pasta or secondi and (3) a cocktail, prosecco or dessert. And in true rustic Italian style, you can load up on anything from paninis to pasta, Benedicts to Burrata.
Dino’s brunch menu is rather meat-heavy, with lots of prosciutto, pancetta, meatballs, sausage, even wild boar and pork belly. Vegetarian Cori Sue read the menu quietly while Becca and her fellow foodies were enraptured in carnivorous ecstasy. Our new friend Mike nearly lost all self control when a giant plate of prosciutto was placed in front of him. (Sidenote: Dino also boasts gluten-free menu choices.)
On this particular occasion, before we even began ordering our prix fix brunch, Dino’s owner and chef, Dean Gold, sent out passed salads to share. He also sent out Baci Italiani (Italian kisses), scallops wrapped in crispy pancetta, with duck liver and dates, covered in a citrus & ginger glaze. It was a great first impression. Not only were they pleasantly bite-sized, they packed a variety of taste. First you get the ginger glaze, then the crisp, then the dates, then the duck liver. It’s almost too much for your mouth to handle in one (or two) bites.
Cori Sue skipped those and began her meal with formaggi (cheese), served with mixed nuts, jams and a generous portion of bread. The cheese selection at Dino is intense; you can go for something simple such as goat’s cheese made with fresh black truffle, or something adventurous and crazy that is cave-aged to acquire wild molds and flavor. We weren’t that adventurous that particular Sunday morning, but the cheeses that we chose were still packed with flavor.
Becca also went for the cheese, but of a different sort: the Burrata, which is buffalo cheese that Dino ships in twice a week from Puglia. It has curds and cream inside, and fresh mozzarella outside, and it’s surrounded by kalamata olive, red pepper, and oven roasted tomato tapenades for a zing of flavor. While it seems as if a large lump of mozzarella has been plated before you, it’s actually quite tasty and creamy (and rather cool as it slides down your throat).
Those cheeses exemplify the sort of unique ingredients that won us over at Dino. That, and the fact that, somehow, chef Dean manages to get most of his ingredients from local farms, sustainable fisheries, and “responsible” beef farms. We always take notice when a restaurant jumps through hurdles for its brunch ingredients, and at Dino this is clearly a priority.
For the main course, Becca went for the San Benedetto, which is the Italian version of a classic eggs Benny. It’s made with local (read: Pennsylvania) poached eggs and Pio Tosini prosciutto on grilled ciabata. The sauce is what makes it, though. It’s an orange and rosemary butter that melds all the pieces together, and balances out the prosciutto’s saltiness with a bit of spice.
Cori Sue opted for the Torte di Mela, an apple “pancake,” which was, in reality, more like a dessert tart than a pancake. It’s made with apples and lots of cinnamon sugar (a “Tuscan batter”), drizzled with Saba, and served with generous portions of thick, rich, decadent cream. In fact, Cori loved the cream so much she continued to eat it through dessert (on top of her fabulous chocolate cake).
It’s clear that every detail at Dino, from the smallest ingredients in a dish to the art hanging on the wall, is hand-selected by chef Dean and his wife, Kay. And even though we got the red-carpet foodie treatment that Sunday, we bet that the brunch would be just as delish any other Sunday as well … We’ll just have to go back when it’s not such a special occasion.
The Bitches say: A+ But we were pampered with great service and food because of the event. We vow to return undercover!
3435 Connecticut Avenue NW
Cleveland Park, Washington D.C., 20008