The days are officially numbered for Shaw’s cozy go-to Dino’s Grotto, which has brought Italian cooking and lived-in vibes to the neighborhood for the past five years.
Its always-around owner Dean Gold confirmed its rumored closure and his simultaneous retirement as a restaurateur — expected to occur by September — to Washington City Paper on Tuesday. Eater reached out to Gold for comment.
The two-level restaurant was designed as a riff on the proprietor, chef, and sommelier’s original Cleveland Park restaurant called Dino, which operated from 2005 to 2013. Its similar look imported exposed brick, plenty of wooden furniture, and classic artwork across the space. Since Dino’s debut in Shaw in 2014, the area’s dining scene has exploded with a sea of newcomers like Cortez, San Lorenzo, and Service Bar.
PoPville recently hinted at its pending demise, publishing a letter last week from a frequent fan who claimed Dino’s was having trouble staying afloat. Aside from rising neighborhood competition, the decision to close also stemmed from the fact that hectic restaurant ownership was taking a toll on Gold’s health.
“Nine months ago my doctor said to me, ‘Do you want to live a full, long life or what? The amount of stress you’re under isn’t right.’ It took us a while to come terms with that,” he tells WCP.
The 76-seat space was known for its rotating (and affordable) lineup of antipasti, grilled eggplant parmigiana, fried artichokes, fresh fish, pastas, and super seasonal selections like soft shell crab served various ways, with a laser focus on local producers and farmers. There was also lots of Italian wines by the glass and an extensive list of small producers.
The hands-on owner frequently blasted personalized newsletters to guests, outlining upcoming specials and holiday deals. Promos included $8 negroni nights on Fridays, half-priced burger and lasagna deals, and all-day happy hour on Sundays. It’s unclear whether Dino’s will stick around along enough to partake in August’s Restaurant Week, though the restaurant’s current voicemail message says the promo is still on.
He tells WCP he’s working with the landlord to find a replacement restaurant tenant. In a Q&A with the pub, Gold reflects on Dino’s 14-year run in D.C., counting those celebrating 12 anniversaries in a row and “seeing kids drink wine who at one time were barely out of ‘sippy’ cups” among his favorite memories.
Possibly after but certainly "By the Atumnal Equinox"— Dino's Grotto: Closing Before The Autumnal Equinox (@DinoInShaw) July 2, 2019