Our Staff

Chef/Managing Partner – Dean Gold & Managing Partner – Kay Zimmerman

Over the years, Dean Gold has been involved with wine & food in various capacities. He began as a retail wine sales person and soon moved to the wholesale trade. When one of his clients was looking for a wine director, Dean made the move to the food service industry. From there, he moved to beloved but gone Angeli Caffe in Los Angeles, where he met one of his most influential mentors, Chef/Owner Evan Kleiman. Her simple cooking is the basis of Dean’s love of all things Italian. At Angeli, his wine lists gained local & national recognition, winning praise from the Los Angeles Times and Wine Spectator. While assisting Chef/Owner Fred Eric with the opening of Vida, Dean’s innovative wine lists, based on grouping wines by style, gained popularity and press acclaim, as well.

Later, Dean was approached by Whole Foods Market to launch their wine program in Southern California. Between the time he interviewed and was hired, the job responsibility grew to encompass being the buyer and coordinator for wine, cheese, and specialty foods. Dean took a small cheese department and grew it to an over $17 million dollar a year business for Whole Foods Market, and created an $8 million dollar a year wine business from scratch. It was at Whole Foods that Dean first became aware of the difference between organic and sustainable. He soon realized that great food could not reasonably be produced on an industrial scale; that organic was a meaningless term and that local/organic labels on food is no assurance of great tasting food.

It was during his time at Whole Foods that he began his annual trips to Italy where he learned much about traditional Italian food products. Dean’s trips afforded him the opportunity to dine at wonderful, family owned restaurants and to visit the producers directly. He has had his hands in vats of Parmigiano Reggiano curds as they were being cut; stuck his fingers in barrels of 30-year-old Balsamico, and visited small prosciutto factories where the floors were still gravel, the racks wooden, the cooling achieved without refrigeration, by opening and closing windows. He has walked in the vineyards of Brunello di Montalcino and Valpolicella, where his love of these wines was formed. On these visits he made connections with incredible artisan producers with whom he still has relationships. Their products formed the foundation for the menu at Dino, and Dino’s Grotto will continue with these folks who, often, are not only suppliers but also friends.

Since taking over as chef at Dino in Cleveland Park in 2008, Dean has been a regular buyer at Farmers’ Markets such as the Dupont Circle, 14th & U, & Bloomingdale. You will often see Dean (or Kay, his wife of over 25 years) loading the 4-wheel cart with piles of local produce and then trying to fit it in the car for the ride back to the restaurant. If it comes to a choice between buying enough produce for the restaurant or Kay having a seat in the car to ride back to Dino’s Grotto, well that’s what the Metro is for! They buy literally tons of overripe tomatoes each year for the house-made tomato essence that goes into Dino’s Grotto’s bloody Mary mix as well as many dishes (while the supply lasts).

All food is farm to table. Food starts on a farm. Period! What matters is what kind of farm it comes from, how it has been handled and processed on the way. Dean & Kay have formed personal relationships with the farmers and co-ops who provide the vast majority of produce used at Dino’s Grotto year round. You will never see an out of local season tomato or industrially grown asparagus from the Pacific Coast or Peru in Dean’s kitchen. Each vendor, whether meat, vegetable, dairy, or fish, is chosen with an eye to sustainable and responsible practices, an honest respect for the environment and tradition, and, most importantly, a devotion to creating the best tasting products possible. You will see non-local products though, as everything isn’t best when grown/made/caught locally and there are traditional products where a chef’s support is keeping that tradition alive.

Dean’s partner is his wife of over 25 years, Kay Zimmerman. In addition to their love of food, Kay & Dean are avid opera goers. They have seen over 60 live performances in Washington, Chicago & New York, as well as in Firenza {where they had dinner with Maestro Zubin Mheta and Tenor Carl Tanner} Roma & Verona. They love Broadway & local theater with a particular fondness for Sondheim. They are also art collectors with a small but growing collection of contemporary Italian art (mostly watercolors, oils & Murano glass) & Japanese American art.

 

Chef di Cucina – Jose Chicas

Since the first days of the Dino that is no more, Jose Chicas has been a part of the kitchen in one Dino or the other for 9 years. He started on the fry station, the entry point for cooking. Then he moved to salad/cold prep, grill and finally in 2015, he earned the chance to be Chef di Cucina in charge of the day to day running of the kitchen. Dean and Jose work collaboratively on new recipes with Dean supplying the ideas and Jose the practical side: after all, we need to be able to produce what Dean dream’s up!

 

Beverage Director ~ Andrew Shapiro

 There is probably no one more passionate about Notre Dame football, the Washington Nationals, GInger Beer or making great cocktails in the DC area.  Andrew not only makes our house special cocktails, he also prepares our infused spirits and syrups that make our drink program one of the most seasonal and local in town.  Perhaps Andrew’s best creation is K & B Ginger Beer.  When you can buy it at Whole Amazon, we will be proud to say we knew him when!