Dot Com Dining Restaurant Reviews Click on photos (except logo) to see them full-size
DOT COM DINING A Look At San Gabriel Valley Restaurants by SanGabrielValleyMenus.com
Dino’s Italian Inn – Time Tested Recipes, Experienced Service
by Bill Coburn
For the second week in a row, the restaurant we are spotlighting has enjoyed tremendous longevity. Last week’s spotlight, Manny’s El Loco, started operations in 1971. This week’s spotlight, Dino’s Italian Inn, has had the same owner, John Russell, since 1972, however, the restaurant itself has been there since March, 1949. That’s right, this popular Pasadena restaurant has been around for fifty-five years, since it was begun by Michael Scarantino. (Yes, the Scarantino’s in Glendale features the same family recipes, the owner is John’s cousin). Located at 2055 E. Colorado Blvd. (626) 449-8823, Dino’s Italian Inn has a nice parking lot in the rear, so you don’t have to search around for a spot on the main drag, you can just head north on Oak from Colorado, and turn left into the lot.
Two generations removed from Michael, grandson John Russell started working at Dino’s in 1970, and took over in 1972. People stick around at Dino’s. Our waiter, Hop, (he was named after his grandfather) is a fairly new employee, at less than a year, but before he was hired, the newest server had been at Dino’s for 15 years. The night chef has worked there since 1969, and let me tell you folks, he’s got it down. Our food was delivered right on time, and tasted excellent.
My wife, Katie, has a standard answer when I ask her what sounds good for dinner. “You know me, Mexican always sounds good to me.” Well, my standard answer (once I realized that chili cheese dogs was pretty much never going to meet with approval) is “You know me, Italian always sounds good to me.” And it does. Unfortunately, as you may have noticed in the spotlights, my wife gets what she wants a little more frequently than I do.
But this week, Italian won out. We popped into Dino’s, and I was a little surprised that there was a wait, because you’d have never known it from outside, or even from the lobby, which was quiet, and had just a few people sitting in it. There wasn’t a long wait, about 5 minutes or so, but from the quiet, relaxed atmosphere we encountered as we entered, I thought the place was going to be empty. As we entered the dining room, I looked around to see that the dining room was full, even though the restaurant was as quiet and calm as it was. Good acoustics, I suppose. But I attribute part of it to having well trained, long-time employees who don’t panic when it gets a little busy, don’t start slamming dishes into bus trays hurrying to clear a table, etc.
We sat down, and I saw some hard breadsticks in a glass, which was good, because I was hungry, and didn’t want to wait to start eating. Before I could get a bread stick out of the glass, there was some fresh Italian bread in a basket on the table, with plenty of butter, and water for everyone. The bread was delicious, and my son liked it because the center just popped out, leaving the crust looking kind of like a donut with an oversized hole.
Dino’s has one of the more extensive menus I’ve seen, and it takes a while to get through it all, if you don’t know what you feel like. But as John says, “If you know what you want, it’s not that big a menu, and you can be sure we have it.” You can find their menu online at www.sangabrielvalleymenus.com/dinos.htm. While you’re there, print up a coupon good for 10% off your meal. Maybe you can use the savings to throw a little extra in for the tip for the excellent service I’m sure you’ll receive.
I ordered the Brochette of Beef Bordelaise, which comes with spaghetti, minestrone soup, salad, and the bread and butter. I also ordered a side order of two meatballs, to put on my spaghetti. Katie ordered Baked Mostaccioli Sorrento, which comes with the same, except for the spaghetti, and Keelan ordered ravioli from the kid’s menu.
Anyway, we had our salads, a mixture of crisp fresh greens with cucumber, cabbage, and I think there was some carrots in there, too. Yes, I’m detail oriented when it comes to these spotlights… We had it with the delicious Italian house dressing. After our salads, the minestrone soup came out, and it was a nice thick broth, with plenty of chunks of vegetables. I enjoyed it, and Katie said she did as well.
When the entrees came out, we knew we’d picked some good entrees. The Brochette of Beef Bordelaise consisted of four good-sized chunks of tender beef, in a delicious bordelaise sauce. I added the meatballs to my spaghetti, and didn’t come up for air. The spaghetti sauce was nice and thick, not runny, and the good-sized meatballs were seasoned just right, nice and firm, not overcooked or soggy from soaking in the sauce. The sauce was delicious, and I have to say one of the better spaghetti sauces I’ve had. All it needed was a little crushed red pepper, to give it the heat I love on my Italian food.
Katie said her Baked Mastaccioli Sorrento, which is mastaccioli baked casserole style with meat sauce, sliced Italian sausage, and fresh Ricotta and Romano cheeses, topped with Mozzarella was delicious. The one disappointment was that for some reason, it came out without the sliced Italian sausage, but she enjoyed it anyway, and there was some sausage in the meat sauce that helped make up for the missing slices.
Keelan enjoyed his ravioli too, for those who were wondering.
All in all, I’d say that Dino’s time tested recipes are complimented by experienced staff. We were quite pleased with our waiter, even if he was a “newbie,” as he was there to attend to our every need. Dino’s does a lot of wedding rehearsal dinners, and with the combination of food and service, I can see why. But because they do so many, you better make your reservations well in advance. It’s also a great place for graduation parties, and if you want to take your Mom someplace special this year, (and get a good Angus filet while you’re at it), make your reservations now. They’re opening early that day, at 3pm, but you can be sure they’ll have a full house. You can also count on Dino’s to help you entertain at home. Their dining at home menu can also be found on their web page.
Bill Coburn is owner of SanGabrielValleyMenus.com, a restaurant website featuring dozens of restaurant’s menus, as well as downloadable coupons. He has nearly 20 years experience in the restaurant business, and has been eating for much longer than that.
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