Jay Fox's Dining Guide
When it's bad, it's very, very bad
“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear
3 SONS ITALIAN RESTAURANT
I WAS SO LOOKING FORWARD to a great meal, but G and I were frustrated at every turn.
For the past several years, 3 Sons has participated in Festival Italiano at Belmar Center in Lakewood. And each year it has been one of the most popular eateries. Last year it was my fav. This cuz of their Italian Eggrolls — sausage, mozzarella, roasted bell peppers & marinara wrapped in a wonton skin & deep fried. Oh, my. 2-die-4. They were so good, after I went home and took a nap, I headed back to the festival before closing soes I could get some more.
This is a restaurant with lotsa history. There was a time when Jim Sano, the father of the sons, Anthony, Jimmy and Johnny, ran it, that it was extremely popular and served superb food. That was the first location at 44th and Lowell in 1965. After a great run of twenty years, Jim purchased Ernie’s Supper Club at 2915 West 44th Avenue and moved the restaurant to the new location. As the years passed, Jim turned over the reins to the sons who turned the restaurant into garbage. Circa 2003 Jimmy bought his own eatery in Arvada, and the West 44th location was sold to Michael and Susan Scarafiotti. In June 2009 Michael and Susan moved the restaurant to the current location in West Arvada.
Since Festival Italiano last September, G and I have been looking for an opportunity to dine again at 3 Sons; it had been many years. Usually it requires me remembering to put it on the list of places to dine, and for both of us to be in the mood for the same cuisine, and that doesn’t happen all that frequently. Last week it happened. And that was not a good thing.
We arrived at the restaurant about 7 pm. The large restaurant was half full, but the patio was packed. The hostess told us we’d have a 15 minute wait and we could sit at the bar and order appetizers there. OK. Apparently there weren’t enuf servers that nite, so the manager wisely decided not to seat folks in the dining room where they would have to sit and wait. So we sat at the bar. It went downhill from there.
G’s fav wine these days is an Italian Barbera. The bartender told G they were out of Barbera, but he recommended something he called “similar.” The man didn’t have a clue. What he thought was similar was so bold that G couldn’t drink it. OK, she thought. She would save it for dinner and maybe it would be better with a heavy pasta dish. Didn’t happen.
After the bartender served our drinks, I ordered the egg rolls for an appetizer. We waited for our table and the egg rolls. After waiting 20 minutes I went to the hostess and asked about our table. The restaurant was now 2/3 empty. She sed our table was now ready. I brought our drinks, but alas no egg rolls. I asked the bartender about them and he sed they would be right out and he would send them to our table. Yeah, right.
We sat down at a very nice table in a very nice room and were promptly greeted by a very nice young man. His name was ‘One Minute Joe’. You’ve had this waiter before, remember him? Everything will be out in “just one minute.” Well, this kid was too much. It was 25 additional “one minute” before the egg rolls appeared. They were scalding hot; now I knew why they took so long. But they were delish. Really good. G tried one, burned her tongue and refused to eat any more. I luved ’em. For the next ten minutes they were still scalding hot and I still luved them. Unfortunately, that was the only thing we luved. And I mean the ONLY thing.
The menu at 3 Sons is extensive. They have a dozen “starter” dishes including antipasti, signature starters, salads, mussels, calamari, and caprese. I’m not sure what the difference between the 3 Sons signature starters and their “antipasti” sections of the menu are. They offer mussels, but the salads and soups were in a different section. I guess they wanted you to read the entire menu before deciding.
About this time we found out that there were new cooks in the kitchen and apparently there was no supervisor cook so no one who knew how to cook or prepare anything. I asked W who was supervising the cooks and he replied that no one was.
G ordered a small Classic Caesar salad and I ordered a house salad. The romaine lettuce was wetter than New Orleans after Katrina. Apparently the thought of drying it didn’t occur to anyone in the kitchen. Surely no one would have ordered it earlier that nite, cuz if they did the manager would have taken the dish off the menu or shown someone how to prepare a Caesar salad. The dressing wasn’t. It had no flavor, no zip, no taste, nada. Booorrring. My house salad was ok, albeit it was pretty wet also. But the wet killed the taste of the untasty ranch dressing.
Now we waited for our dinner. We were in the restaurant 75 minutes before dinner arrived. Remember it only took 45 minutes for the egg rolls, so things were picking up.
G ordered the Rigatoni Pomodoro. This is a very basic Italian dish, just noodles in a sauce. Yeah, they add sausage pieces and things, but very basic Italian. It requires someone to drain the noodles and put them on a plate. The noodles were not good. As in cooked way too long. Remember the guy who didn’t drain the salad? Musta been the same non-cook who did the noodles, or his twin brother, cuz they were wet and soggy and cold. And gummy even.
When Mr. One Minute came by and G showed him that the dish wasn’t acceptable and why, he told us he would have a fresh dish out in “just a minute.” Not bad, cuz it was maybe three minutes and he was back. With another dish of not-cold-but-heated-in-the-microwave pasta. G very politely pointed out what was wrong with this dish. My dinner was better. Sorta.
I had ordered the W-recommended chicken dinner with roast chicken and fresh veggies. I got a large portion (two pieces) of chicken but the skin was very hard and flavorless. The inside of the chicken was moist and fairly tender. It came with a teaspoon full of veggies, and lotsa liquid. How much liquid? Cudda sailed to England in it. It wasn’t bad but it sure wasn’t good.
Accompanying our dinners was day-old focaccia and soft butter, neither of which appealed to me. I wanted real Italian bread and cold slices of butter.
The only redeeming factor is that the manager didn’t charge us for the offending dishes, but we really don’t plan on going back. They have a large dessert menu, including a list of “desserts” and a list of “signature delights” and then “ice cream.” Again, no apparent differences. Maybe the chef like some and customers like others? We didn’t stay for dessert.
I’m hoping that this was one very bad day and one normally very good restaurant. The present folks have owned it for six years and the reviews are normally very good. I remember that it was great when the old man ran it, and then the sons ran it and it sucked, and now, I just don’t know. Sure do like them egg rolls.
Now you know why dining critic Jay Fox is referred to as “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” If you want to pass on your own experiences in restaurants, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.