Astoria is a unique area of Queens, N.Y. Now dense with many different ethnic populations, it once was almost exclusively a Greek enclave. Today, it is a haven for many different ethnic settlers from the Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe. Dino Bar and Restaurant is an example of the trend in multi-cultural dining experiences. Dino’s menu has the food of Montenegro’s neighbors, the Balkan countries, as well as Southern European food, especially Italian and other Mediterranean favorites. Dino Redzic has his own unique butcher shop, thus assuring restaurant patrons the finest cuts of dry-aged meat, as well as house-made sausages and even Kobe beef specialties. This offering reflects the neighborhood’s cultural diversity as well.
Redzic, a Montenegro native and son of a restaurateur in Switzerland, came to America to study physical therapy on a scholarship from New York University. He arrived in New York from Switzerland was a cultural, educational, and life-style challenge. However, Mr. Redzic discovered that it was much easier to become a chef in New York than in Switzerland. He began work as a busboy and was later promoted to waiter and then to maitre d’ at high-end restaurants, like the Rainbow Room, Windows on the World, and the James Beard House where he worked as a maitre d’ for food and beverages. Eventually he opened his own restaurants, Amici Amore and Butcher Bros Steakhouse. A few more followed in Florida.
At Dino’s, patrons may opt for the semiformal dining area with rich leather banquettes or the dining area where a marble chef’s table sits in the middle of the room under a cast-iron chandelier, with bottles of wine and champagne used for lights. Wine bottles line the room including the ceiling. A portrait of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, hangs above the bar facing the chef’s table where diners can enjoy a seven to twenty-two course tasting menu for $100. I wanted the full experience and chose the chef’s table for my companion and me.
We started with the finger-licking-good hot and sizzling platter of homemade sausages, Cevapici and Sudjuk style ($13) that arrived flambé, a style of presentation Redzic learned from his mentor the late Joe Baum of the Rainbow Room. This was one of our traditions at home where my mother would make Sudjuk (which can be either Armenian of Turkish) at home, and our cellar would be full of drying sausages. The sausages were charred from the outside, yet juicy and full of aroma with an amazing combination of spices, giving each one a distinct flavor. The side dish we ordered was a special cheese Redzic calls “Forbidden Cheese,” light, fluffy Montenegro-style cheese, made from sheep and cow’s milk by his farmer friend in upstate New York. Portions at the restaurant are generous, and the ingredients are exceptionally good and fresh. The menu offers a wide array of choices: appetizers, salads, pastas, meat, and fish. The steaks at $30 are either Black Angus or dry-aged Black Angus.
The seafood was among the freshest I have had; our jumbo-size shrimp cocktail was an appetizer to be savored. My friend and I almost devoured all the shrimp, but we were presented with yet another one of Redzic’s Italian influenced dishes: Chicken Marsala Siciliana with mushrooms and smothered in its house-made own demi-glace, a process that takes three days to make, resulting in a rich, velvety and creamy sauce. The meat was accompanied by Spaghetti Bolognese ($15), augmented with bay leaf, fresh thyme, and cream added to the sauce, attenuating the tomatoes’ acidity.
Ricotta cheesecake, tiramisu, and tartufo are among desserts choices. Lemon sorbet, made from Redzic’s Italian mother’s recipe, was a refreshing way to end the meal. For those with a sweeter tooth, try the light and fluffy tiramisu.
Dino’s Restaurant and Bar that opened just few days ago is a place where diners can enjoy live Balkan music: Montenegrin, Bosnian, Albanian, and Greek. You can also learn how to cook with Chef Dino.
We wish Dino great success!
Hours of operation:
Lunch: Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Early Bird menu: Two-course meal $9.99 offered from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Dinner: 7 days a week 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Address: 29-30 Newtown Avenue, Corner of 30th Street, Astoria, N.Y.
Web site: dinosny.com