Dino’s Ristorante Italiano is celebrating 20 years of offering Italian cuisine in downtown Roseburg.
The DeNino family is inviting the public to come celebrate the 20th anniversary with them from 2 to 5 p.m. April 29 at the restaurant. With a buffet of hors d’oeuvres and non-alcoholic beverages, the open house celebration will feature giveaways and door prizes. No-host beer and wine will also be available.
The business was opened on Jackson Street in 1998 by Dino and Debbie DeNino, in what used to be a grocery store and then a pet store. Though it has remained in the same location, Dino’s has transformed over the years.
“Dino always wanted to have a wine shop and Italian deli, and that’s how we started,” Debbie DeNino said. “People would walk inside and say, ‘This is going to be an Italian restaurant, right?’”
To meet customers’ wishes, the DeNinos expanded the shop into a restaurant with classic Italian dishes.
“We’re here for the customers, for the people, and we do it out of love,” Debbie DeNino said.
The DeNinos moved to Roseburg from California in 1974 to start a vineyard and winery, which they operated for 25 years as Umpqua River Vineyards. At the Greatest of the Grape competition one year, the DeNinos won for the best food pairing with wine from Umpqua River Vineyards and food from Dino’s Ristorante.
Debbie DeNino said their three sons, Nino, Ezra and Stephen DeNino, have been a big part of the restaurant since the beginning.
“When we first got the place, I helped with everything,” Ezra DeNino said. “I started out washing dishes, then serving tables, and I ended up being a really good chef here.”
Nino DeNino said he worked at the restaurant from when it opened to about 2005, becoming a chef as well, and Stephen DeNino is currently the head waiter and dining room manager.
Dino DeNino’s family originally came from Italy, and all the family members have gone back to visit the country. Dino, Debbie and Stephen DeNino lived in Italy for a couple years, working at a third-generation restaurant in Italy belonging to their friend, while Nino DeNino and Debbie DeNino’s brother managed the Roseburg restaurant.
Dino DeNino, the restaurant’s namesake, died in 2015.
“I wish that Dino could be here for the 20th anniversary, but he’ll be here in spirit,” Debbie DeNino said.
After Dino DeNino passed, the family decided to remodel the restaurant, opening up more dining space by removing the stage on which Dino used to perform.
“Dino was quite the musician,” Ezra DeNino said. He said his father could sing, play the bass, drums and guitar, and had several bands over the years.
Another hobby of Dino DeNino was collecting wooden wine boxes. As a tribute to him, Debbie DeNino had a local artist create a wall feature out of some of the boxes he had collected. Customers can see it hanging on the left side of the restaurant as they walk in.
The menu has also evolved throughout the restaurant’s history.
“We still offer classic Italian cuisine but with modern twists to it, with a contemporary Pacific Northwest influence,” Debbie DeNino said. For example, the menu includes a lamb ragu over soft polenta.
“That ragu dish comes from the region in Italy where our family comes from, and then we throw in the produce we get from our local farmers here and we blend the two together,” Stephen DeNino said.
The family used to raise its own lambs to serve at the restaurant while Dino DeNino was alive, and now they use lambs from other local farmers.
The restaurant partners with local farmers, getting most of its produce from Norm Lehne Garden & Orchards of Roseburg.
One of the longest-running downtown Roseburg restaurants, Dino’s has remained in place while Roseburg has changed around it.
“Twenty years, my gosh,” Debbie DeNino said.
“It’s definitely a milestone,” Nino DeNino added.
Debbie DeNino said Dino’s might be the oldest business under the same ownership in downtown, and she has seen many businesses come and go. The recession, around 2008 to 2010, was tough for local businesses, she said, and she wasn’t sure if the restaurant would make it through.
“We had a lot of loyal customers who, even though it was a tough time, still came in to see us,” Stephen DeNino said.
The DeNinos have also given back to the community over the years, donating to local schools and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Umpqua Valley.
“We always felt giving back to the community was very important,” Debbie DeNino said.
The restaurant has also played a part in hosting special occasions for its customers, including prom nights and company parties. Nino DeNino said it has also served as a special place to dine before an annual community event, the Douglas County Father Daughter Dance.
“I bring my daughter here because she loves grandma’s cooking,” he said. “And my son only eats grandma’s spaghetti.”