I recently went to Dino with a group of TWELVE. After seeing the information on the web site about the various minimums imposed for private parties (requires a non-OpenTable dealing for parties of 11+), I thought--you know? Dino is a good, reasonable place. I'm going to get in touch and see if that minimum ($700 I think) reaaaally applies (maybe they are just kidding?). Dean Gold got back to me super quickly and said I should give him a call--we could order off the menu with no minimum at a semi-open kitchen table so long as we (with a 6pm reservation) are out by 8ish for the next group coming in. Subject to a cancellation fee, but we're planning on showing up in full family force.
Not everybody loved Dino. The naysayers said that the pasta dishes were too rich and heavy, and I think the menu was intimidating to some because it's not the standard Italian joint they are used to. Some of us were getting ready for the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler, so--carbs, right? I forgot that L would likely want to avoid something too heavy and cheesy, so she decided to forgo the pasta for the rotisserie half chicken. She said it was kind of bland--I didn't taste it myself.
Maybe I'm just easy to please (feel free to invite me over to try your cooking--it's a confidence booster). I LOVED my risotto primavera with morels and ramps (onion/leek-like vegetable), and swooned over Mom's lasagna. Father and son got the Tuscan bread soup, and when I asked them what had been in their now-empty bowls, they said "really good soup." The teenager got "fish" that was "good." When I asked her what made it good ("The sauce?" I prompted. "Sides?") she said "it just was." J liked his halibut with baby bok choy, and the roasted red pepper sauce on the plate (which was orange!) was delish.
A said the golden tilefish was "small but good."
In a large group it seems like most people don't love their food, and it's not because the food isn't great, or even good. It's because it's hard to please 12 people, aged 14-82. And everyone is somewhat stressed from traveling, worrying about everyone else (is there anything for Grandma to eat? What time is it? When do we have to be at the next place?), and it's not the leisurely, wine-laden situation that J and I had at our first visit to Dino last year.
3435 Connecticut Ave NW
Metro: Red Line to Cleveland Park