Dino: Fort Greene’s Fifth Rustic Italian, Tailor-Made for Hipsters
Dino, the newest Italian restaurant to hit Fort Greene, is just like many of the other restaurants that have moved into Brooklyn in the past five years: cozy, inexpensive, homey, and simple. Yet, just because it’s mildly formulaic doesn’t mean it’s any less charming.
Bright and open to DeKalb Avenue, Dino is a small rectangular room, painted white for simplicity’s sake. Wooden ceiling fans twirl lazily above the dark wooden tables. On one side of the room is a relaxed bar, manned by an attractive hipster-chic bartender who exudes more calm than my yogi. The design is kept simple with few adornments other than large luxe mirrors and an unusual vaguely Medieval chandelier. Seating around 70, Dino should seem more bustling than it is; however, an almost eery calm defines the casual neighborhood hangout.
The food is simple and rustic Italian. While the flavors are bold, the kitchen’s creations and their presentation are basic. Dino serves comfort food straight-up; don’t expect fireworks and backflips here. However, through fresh quality ingredients and a touch of inspired originality, Dino avoids the red-sauce black hole that casual Italian tends to slip into. The crostini rotate seasonally and can be very good; the chicken liver pate option is bold, smooth, and salty, while the ricotta topping needs a bit salt to bring out the delicate flavor. The appetizers are traditional, ranging from a thick slice of bufala mozzarella with tomatoes and basil to mini veal meatballs with lemon zest and sauteed calamari in white wine and garlic. The pastas are the real show here – fresh, comforting, layered with familiar flavors. Try the bucatini, a thick long noodle cooked just right in a hearty sauce of tomato and onion gravy, pancetta, mint, and pecorino. Or, if you’re looking for something lighter, opt for the basic spaghetti with lemon juice and garlic. Entrees keep it simple with options such as roasted chicken, pork milanese, and grilled or pan-seared salmon with a silky pea puree.
Dino isn’t complicated or fancy; it’s simple and proud of it. It’s the type of any-night place that you could just wander into for an easy and relaxed meal in the neighborhood. Prices ensure that a meal at Dino won’t be an occasion-based production. While not necessarily something special, Dino serves its purpose well as a satisfying and casual hangout for Fort Greene foodies.