Chef Dino has always had a passion for being in the kitchen. From early in his childhood, Chef Dino can remember helping his mother make pizza and lasagna for the family. When Chef was 12, he moved to California to live with his sister in Anaheim Hills. He also lived in Costa Mesa before the family settled in Huntington Beach. While working with food continued to bring Chef joy, the stress of the lifestyle and running a business initially made Chef Dino choose an alternate career path. He attended college at OCC and then UCI, where he studied business, but switched to biology to become a dentist. Chef Dino’s life took a turn when his cousin asked for his help in opening a restaurant. The rest is history.
Today, Chef smiles as he explains how much he loves the stress of a kitchen. Working for $4.25 an hour as a dishwasher and making his way up through the ranks, Chef has truly experienced every angle of the restaurant business. He worked at several Italian-style restaurants, an old movie theater, as well as Gordon Biersch Brewery, where he started as the pizza-maker and worked his way up to sous chef. He was then asked to assist in opening new restaurants, allowing him to travel and learn a little from each establishment. Because of all his experiences, Chef Dino felt he was able to take the best pieces of all these restaurants to create the ideal eatery. He also explained that his one year of culinary school helped him learn to run a business the “American way.” Soon, Chef Dino began building his Huntington Beach empire with Capone’s, Mona Lisa, and most recently The Black Trumpet.
Chef now splits his time evenly between Capone’s and The Black Trumpet, driving back and forth between the two multiple times a day. Though the restaurants are not far apart, Chef openly reveals that he fills up on gas about three times a week. He starts every workday at about 8 a.m., arrives home at 12:30 a.m., and starts thinking about the next day. Being a chef to Dino means thinking about the restaurant 24/7. Chef gets a twinkle in his eye when he admits that he even dreams about creating new dishes. He says he absolutely still sweats the small stuff after 26 years in the restaurant business because he values the reputation and high standards he has built with the community. He compairs his attention to his restaurants to raising a child, explaining that you can trust the babysitter, but deep down you know that they can never love your child like you do. Chef Dino still loves the grind of the kitchen with his team and he takes pride in the fact that at Capone’s, his staff can cook a dish indistinguishable from one of his own. Although, Chef still spices the marinara sauce himself, preserving a secret family recipe.
As much time as Chef Dino still spends at his restaurants, he wanted to spend more time with his family and consequently sold Mona Lisa last year. Now, he spends weekend mornings with his wife and two sons, the eldest of which he says may even be interested in the restaurant business. Both Chef and his wife Lisa cook at home, though Chef says she often jokes, “If I could cook then why would I marry you?” In the future, Chef Dino would love to open a shop serving the Huntington Beach community with quality wine, produce and more. A pasta-maker by the front window is a must. If only he can talk Lisa into it.
KITCHEN GADGET OR TOOL Knife, Pasta pot, Garlic press
KITCHEN APPLIANCE Walk-in cooler, pasta maker
COOKWARE Stove, Wood-burning oven
CONDIMENT/SPICE Aioli, Basil
OC RESTAURANT Watertable
DISH TO EAT Rack of Lamb & Pizza
JUNK FOOD Cheese Puffs
RAW INGREDIENT Tuna
FAST FOOD Cheeseburger
DISH TO MAKE Dishes with Lamb, Pasta’s, Charcuterie and Tapa’s
FOOD TV Chopped, Bar Rescue, Restaurant Impossible, Top Chef
CAPONE’S ITALIAN CUCINA
19688 Beach Blvd.,
Huntington Beach, CA
ESTABLISHED March 11, 1999
THE BLACK TRUMPET BISTRO
TAPAS & BAR
7041 Yorktown Ave.,
Huntington Beach, CA
ESTABLISHED March 10, 2013
Tuesday-Friday 11:30 am – 10 pm
Saturday 4 pm – 10 pm
Sunday 4 pm – 9 pm