Dine-o at Dino
For those in search of a good casual, but authentic Italian restaurant (or a first date-friendly dinner destination), Dino is now open in the former Yanyu spot, across from the Uptown movie theater. The restaurant specializes in authentic Italian cuisine -- owner Dean Gold has traveled extensively to Italy and put great effort into seeking out different products and flavors for his menu. The result is a bright, welcoming atmosphere and the kind of place where you can bring family, a date or a business associate and feel comfortable. The menu has some interesting options that set it apart from other Italian spots.
There are several types of crostini available as starters. I would recommend the "carciofi" (Italian for artichoke) or the salty "alla Dino" with blue cheese and anchovies. There are a few different kinds of small plates that span several regions of Italian cuisine. For example, diners can start with baby octopus, calamari, braised meatballs or prosciutto.
With Vace down the block and 2 Amys within a mile, Gold and his chef, Johnny Neilsen of Andale, Palena and Tribeca Grill in New York, decided to focus their efforts on dishes other than pizza. As for those other dishes, while the pastas were presented al dente, the rotisserie chicken and grilled fish were the standouts. On a sweet note, dessert offers a delectable panini slathered with nutella and a fascinating spin on tiramisu that uses Limoncello in place of espresso.
The wine list and cheese selection are two special treats. Gold has a background in both, having coordinated wine, cheese and specialty foods for the Whole Foods locations in Southern California. The extensive wine list is reasonably priced and the corkage fee is a modest $10. There are certainly kinks to be worked out at Dino -- I did not enjoy the steak, and the pastas need more flavor. In general, it is a welcome addition to the dining scene and a place I'll keep in mind for my next Italian craving or trip to the Uptown.
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