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Café Italia is Now Café Italiano. The Saga of Scott Jones Continues

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.

Jump for the next episode.

Scott Jones photographed by Kevin Marple.

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.

19 comments on “Café Italia is Now Café Italiano. The Saga of Scott Jones Continues

  1. Nancy,

    I tried to work out a new lease with my landlord and he was intent on opening his own restaurant. He was unwilling to negotiate on a new lease with my new concept. Please get the facts straight before you continue to irresponsibly report gossip, inuendo and just one side of the story.

    Scott Jones

  2. Also,
    I did’nt open Cafe Italia on Maple in 1984,
    That was Louis Mendes, the man I bought the Stemmons location from. I then opened Cafe Italia on Lover’s Ln. in 2001.
    One other thing, if Said told you he spent $150,000.oo on this space and you reported that it looked like a wreck, did’nt you question that out and out lie. He has’nt spent a dime on the place. Lastly, he is disgruntled because I would’nt work out a management agreement for him to use my liquor license and is obviously spouting lies
    to get sympathy. Like I said, get your facts straight before you continue this sloppy, unprofessional type of journalism.

    Scott Jones

  3. Agree Twinwillow. Nancy, do you think you can dig up that caricature of Scott and Reuben?

  4. Does anyone know if the menu is the same? I saw the sign on the building Sunday and was immediately cautiously optimistic. I’m one of those loyal cafe italia patrons who was crushed when it closed! Give me the pasta Sophia and salmon manicotti again, along with the option to bring my own wine, and I’m in!

  5. Rebros,
    Even with Nancy’s limited skill set, it won’t take a lot of digging. I can get you a copy if you want. I’ll even autograph it.
    Scott

  6. No response on the screen door comments? Just curious now that this has turned into much more than a discussion on my long lost cafe italia. Would love to get my facts straight!

  7. Im a big Nancy Nichols fan, but if she didnt reach out to Scott to get his side of the story first, well, thats pretty bad.

  8. Cafe italia was kind of gross. I’m looking forward to new food because that’s a good spot.

  9. Yes Staci, the menu is exactly the same. The prices are even cheaper, and they’re serving free Yellow Tail, since they don’t have a liquor license right now. You should go asap!

  10. Let’s take a different tact on this Cafe Italia thing. This place was so foul, so amatuerish, so fundamentally cheesy, it amazes me it gets this much discussion. The “loyal customers” are the bottom feeders of the eating public. I don’t know of another city that would even focus on this place once, much less multiple times.

  11. Two things: One, this is a blog. I had a little experience and reported it for discussion. Scott can come on here and say whatever he wants. The Mission Statement of SideDish is:”SideDish is a food-related discussion among editors at D Magazine about the Dallas-Fort Worth dining scene — everything from good meals to bad service, kitchen gossip to restaurant news, chefs’ secrets to culinary trends.”

    Two: One fact is clear–there have been several times when Scott Jones has left a business there has been heavy smoke left behind. And usually where there is smoke there is a controversy. Scott, at what point did your landlord at Cafe Italia tell you he wanted to open a restaurant? I was in your restaurant in December and you were still offering investment packages to your customers for the Tex-Mex deal. Then you closed. And there was never a followup press release. You put one out when you announced the closing of Cafe Italia. I’m curious.

  12. Wow, Fred. I would be interested in hearing your recommendations, obviously thanks to your refined palate, for fine dining in Dallas.

  13. I was going to stay out of this because my one and only experience at Cafe Italia occurred years back shortly after they first opened but, they were open long enough to get it right by the time we got there.
    As I remember, dinner that night including both food and service was so terrible, it bordered between ridiculous and comical at best.
    We never returned.

  14. Nancy,
    You can call me personally and I will clarify everything with you and the timeline. Not in this forum. By the way, the landlord announced his plans after we closed and had paid rent for an additional three months through March while waiting to hear back from him.
    Scott

  15. Coincidentally, we had a really bad waiter named Fred. The venom Fred spews sounds a little personal.

  16. Have to agree that the food is mediocre at best. I live around there and went 3 times to make sure I wasn’t missing something. Everything was super salty and the waiter (not Fred) warned us of that. Tried it for brunch once and there were 2 other people in the entire restaurant. Still sub par. Staff was always great, wish the food was. Hope the new chef switches things up a bit and keeps BYOB! Good luck to Scott.

  17. The cafe italia in Bishop Arts closed pretty quickly. Anything on that??