There aren’t many restaurants that manage to stay in business for more than half a century, but Dino’s Restaurant in Elizabethton has achieved that milestone.
The achievement is even more significant when you realize that the restaurant has only been owned and operated by two families.
The restaurant was established by the late Dino Senesi Jr., a native of Scranton, Pa., back in 1963. Senesi operated the restaurant for more than 30 years before selling to Kent Williams in 1995.
Williams and his wife, Gayle, went on to operate Dino’s Restaurant for several years before making sons John and David co-owners of the restaurant.
The Williams family has kept intact the Italian recipes while also introducing other items to the menu.
Senesi died Sept. 25, 2012, at age 80. His legacy lives on with each plate of spaghetti and lasagna served at Dino’s.
Even today, customers are still discovering this charming eatery in downtown Elizabethton, which will hopefully take the restaurant far as it enters the next 50 years of feeding area diners.
Dino’s Restaurant celebrated its anniversary last week with a special offer for customers dining Thursday, June 20. On that day only, customers ordering one lasagna or spaghetti platter could purchase a second meal for the original price of 65 cents. The price these days remains a modest $6.99 for a generous platter of lasagna and $6.49 for a plate of spaghetti.
The menu also offers other pasta dishes, including Chicken Parmesan, Fettuccine Alfredo and Cheese Manicotti.
Although I didn’t get to visit on the anniversary date, I did enjoy a recent dinner with my mother, my brother and a friend. It seemed only fitting to treat my mom since she and my dad introduced my brother and me to Dino’s Restaurant many years ago.
She ordered, as she always has, the Spaghetti with Sauce. My brother chose the Ravioli with Sauce, which has long been his favorite dish at Dino’s. My friend chose the Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo.
I ordered the Lasagna with Meatballs. Whether I order the lasagna or spaghetti, I almost always add meatballs to the order. Dino’s serves two large, well-seasoned meatballs with these pasta dishes, so you get your money’s worth.
I’ve tried some of the other pasta dishes over the years, and I’ve enjoyed them, but the lasagna remains my overall Dino’s favorite.
We also paired our pasta meals with a garden salad, which consisted of iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes and large croutons.
As always, I enjoyed the Lasagna. It may have undergone some subtle changes with seasoning and preparation through the years, but it’s still the hearty meal I’ve enjoyed numerous times.
I was also able to sample my friend’s Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo. We both agreed that the plump shrimp had been well prepared, and that the Alfredo sauce tasted fresh, flavorful and adequately cooked to a pleasant, creamy consistency.
This was my first experience of the Alfredo sauce at Dino’s, and I was pleased enough with the results that I now have a competitive alternative to my favorite lasagna when I visit the restaurant.
One thing that has not changed over the years is the complementary basket of buttered Texas toast served with all pasta dishes. It’s quite satisfying to finish off the last of the sauce with a slice of the tasty bread.
That being said, I also like some of the non-Italian items offered as daily specials on a rotating basis, including the Country-style Steak and Gravy, Ham and Meatloaf. Other non-Italian menu items include Apple-roasted Pork Tenderloin, Alpine Chicken, Grilled Trout and Grilled Shrimp.
Dino’s also offers a range of sandwiches, burgers and salads, including a Chef Salad, Grilled Chicken Salad, Grilled Shrimp Salad and Antipasto Salad.
Service is always provided with a smile, and some of the long-time servers at the restaurant can greet their regular customers by name.
The interior of the restaurant hasn’t changed a lot over the years. Seating is available at booths and tables in three connected dining rooms. The chairs for the tables are upholstered with orange-red vinyl. The walls are covered with various sports memorabilia from local high schools, as well as from college and professional teams.
Meal portions are quite generous, and the food is definitely hearty and filling. Nevertheless, I recommend leaving room for a dessert. Sharing a sweet at the end of the meal can make this more manageable.
During our recent visit, dessert options included Chocolate Meringue Pie, Apple Crisp and Dreamsicle Pie.
We chose to share a slice of the Dreamsicle Pie. This dessert starts with a graham cracker pie shell that holds the mousse, which is mingled with the classic flavors of creamy vanilla and orange.
I don’t know if it was nostalgia or my tastebuds, but this dessert was a hit. If I closed my eyes, I could easily mistake this dessert for one of the Dreamsicles I enjoyed on hot summer days as a kid.
If you’ve never been to Dino’s, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit. If you’ve not been in awhile, why not visit, enjoy a meal and wish the Dino’s crew a happy birthday.
NOTE: In last week’s column about the Crow’s Nest Cafe in Elizabethton, I mistakenly identified Rita Southerland as the owner of the restaurant. Although Southerland does work for Crow’s Nest Cafe, the owner and operator of the restaurant is Brian Irick. I apologize for the error.
AT A GLANCE: Dino’s Restaurant, 420 E. Elk Ave, Elizabethton. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 542-5541. Menu items $12.99 and under. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available.