It's been roughly three months since Dino's in Cleveland Park shuttered, but owner Dean Gold wasted no time in moving across town to Shaw in opening up Dino's Grotto, a more casual iteration of the former. The dining room is basic, simple furnishings with impressive Italian silk tapestries which Gold and his wife Kay have collected over the years from trips to Tuscany.
If you were a fan of Dino then you won't be disappointed with the Grotto, there are new dishes that you could say fit more in with the neighborhood, but there are regulars which are familiar - the pork & veal Lasagnette made the trek across town, as did the pappardelle Cinghiale; a bowl packed of house made noodles in a rich creamy tomato sauce with wild boar ragu. This is one of those dishes that you'll be hard pressed not to order on each visit. Another dish to consider, if you're wanting something a little heartier is Fusili al Forno - a dish loaded with Border Springs lamb meatballs combined with the best of Italian flavors - smoked mozzarella and tomatoes.
There are many more hits than misses at the Grotto, the Mozzarella in Carozza was superb, a golden crusted fried cheese sandwich with a spicy tomato sauce to dip into - load on the calories with this one, if you're hitting up the beach this season and are looking for one guilty pleasure, this is it. The Tuscan Bacon with Balsamic Strawberries were light and buttery, the pork belly is crispy yet still manages to fall apart in the mouth, easily a dish to share too. One of the favorite dishes at our table was also one of the simplest (it's always the case), the Duck Fat Potatoes, small parcels of crispy to the touch, fluffy to the bite potatoes, if you're a larger group be sure to order more than one of these, they'll go fast.
The house made tomato sauce and pesto tagliatelle was a little light in flavor and texture, I was hoping for a dish packed with sweet tomato chunks, these were a hold over from last seasons tomatoes as Gold explained, so I'm going to hold out until tomato season kicks into gear and give this dish another chance, it holds promise, especially as it's one of the many vegan dishes on the menu and can be made gluten-free.
I'll end on a sweet note, what you see below is one of the most indulgent desserts I've had in a long time, the Giandui "Nico", a bittersweet hazelnut chocolate gelato drizzled with chocolate sauce, this will be your dessert of the summer.
Dino's Grotto, 1914 9th Street NW, Washington, DC (closest metro: U Street/Cardozo or Shaw)
Update: Fresh tomatoes have arrived, the tomato sauce and pesto tagliatelle dish is off the menu to make way for a new seasonal tomato dish. Keep an eye out and if you order it let me know how it is in the comments.