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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Thu 6:00pm–9:30pm
Fri 6:00pm–10:30pm
Sat 5:30pm–10:30pm
Sun 5:30pm–9:30pm

Features Good wines, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Cleveland Park
3435 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 686-2966
Good Italian food in a cozy setting makes Dino an affordable sure thing

Dino, Cleveland Park’s rustic Italian restaurant, is that vital ace up the sleeve when you’re in need of a good, no-frills meal that consistently hits the mark.

The gregarious owner greets patrons as they enter his two-story dining room, whose burnt yellow and orange walls boast an array of contemporary Italian art from his own private collection. Wine aficionados will find a kindred spirit here; he’s crafted a tome of great Italian producers, and he serves his wines at the proper temperatures—something we rarely (if ever) see. If his adorable and enthusiastic descriptions don’t help you, the knowledgeable wait staff will. Check for frequent specials on wine and on Thursdays there’s no corking fee (a gracious move for someone with such a gorgeous list).

The menu changes often as fresh ingredients come in, which elevates this restaurant far above most of its ilk. The hot and cold antipasti present some of the kitchen’s best work. Three plump pork and veal meatballs seasoned with garlic and fresh herbs pair ideally with a chunky sauce of ripe tomatoes. Cured-meat and cheese enthusiasts will appreciate Dino’s stellar selection of Italian imports, including a subtle but creamy buffalo mozzarella that’s flown to the States twice a week from Puglia. This and a slice of warm crusty bread, with air-bubble “cubby holes” that capture heaps of tangy olive and roasted red pepper tapenade, allow diners to truly appreciate the pleasures of simple country cooking.

It’s easy to fill up on small plates, but the homemade pastas and mains also deserve high marks. Now and then you might run into less meritorious dishes, like a fusilli with a white wine ragù of ground duck, pork, and veal that, when compared to his other work, is somewhat disappointing. But this is rare.

Excellent homemade gelati and a decent tiramisù make the requisite Italian dessert menu appearances, but another highlight includes a surprisingly fluffy Nutella-and-mascarpone mousse playfully served in a chocolate shell resembling an espresso cup. Whether this “Cappuccino di Nutella” or an actual coffee serves as the meal’s finale, there’s little need to squirm once the check arrives. Dino, after all, isn’t about the splurge—instead, each step of the meal focuses on the strong execution of simple, affordable flavors that combine to make the place a sure thing.

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