Scott Jones has been a restaurateur in Dallas for quite some time. He opened Café Italia on Maple Avenue in 1984 and another location on Lovers Lane in 2002. Last May, Jones, who also opened Screen Door at One Arts Plaza, announced he was closing the popular Tex-Italian spot on Lovers in August. Loyal customers went berserk, so Jones decided to keep it open until December 2009 due to “patron request, holiday parties, and the busy fall season.”
Jones pitched investors and told the media he was turning the place into a Tex-Mex concept which caused a lot of people to scratch their heads. Why ruin a good thing? Then, last October, Jones caused quite a ruckus with his mysterious departure from Screen Door. Was he really the owner? Is he still financially invested? Who knows, the details are still not clear. Currently, Jones spends his time in Fort Worth at his new-ish Cowtown Diner where he claims to serve the world’s largest chicken-fried steak.
One thing I can say about Scott Jones is that he certainly is a drama queen. Everything he touches turns into a soap opera.
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Last night, I noticed a new sign above the newly planted flower beds at the old Café Italia on West Lovers. I stopped in and found chef Said Hommadi Mohammadi standing in the middle of an empty restaurant that has been stripped down to bare walls. “I am the owner of this building,” he said. “I used to run a restaurant here called Saffron.”
Chef Said left Dallas in 2001 to take “care of some family business in Germany.” The details are a bit sketchy, but chef Said said he “turned the business over to Scott Jones” who redid the space and opened Café Italia. Last fall someone called Said and told him he’d better get back to his restaurant in Dallas. “They told me Scott had messed up the place,” he said. According to chef Said, when Jones shuttered Café Italia on December 31, he left the restaurant badly damaged. “I have had to put $150,000 in to get to this,” he said.
Believe me when I tell you the interior of the restaurant is still a wreck. All of the former decorations have been ripped out and the unpainted walls are spotted with pockmarks. However, the white table cloths are on the tables and several loyal customers have already made their way back. “I cooked for 50 people last Saturday,” he said grinning from ear to ear.
I guess Jones abandoned the Tex-Mex idea and moved on to greener pastures. Meanwhile, chef Said is in the kitchen cooking “family” Italian recipes. Bring your own bottle. It’s going to be a while before he gets back on his feet.