When I wrote my original review of 3 Sons ("Same Old, Same Old
," September 11, 2003), people called me an assassin. They called me a thug and an asshole and a brainless, potty-mouthed jerkoff who didn't know nothin' from nothin'. What I didn't get was a single letter sympathizing with me for having to spend a week choking down food that I hated like poison just so I could be absolutely good and goddamned sure that what I was eating was as bad as I thought it was. So this time around, I don't expect to receive a citation from any Italian-American benevolent organization praising my bravery and willingness to go once again unto the breach to give 3 Sons -- a place I swore I would never set foot in again -- another shot. Granted, the restaurant was sold soon after that review to Susan and Michael Scarafiotti, longtime friends of the house, who introduced a new and improved menu, new (though still somewhat oppressive and grandmotherly) decor, new staff, even new cocktails -- if you can comfortably call a cosmo or limoncello martini "new." But while it would have been tough for the new 3 Sons to be any worse than the old 3 Sons short of having someone waiting just inside the door to kick me in the nuts, I was still a bit wary about venturing back. I didn't need to be. The menu has been pared down to a straightforward presentation of all those Italian classics you'd expect from a place with such a storied, generational history -- the marsalas, Florentines, pomodoros and alfredos that made Italian food famous. The kitchen seems to have learned a couple of presentation tricks, too, and with the exception of stale dinner rolls and one crushingly heavy white sauce, everything I tasted -- from a very nice Caprese salad with sweet, ripe tomatoes and basil to a plate of passable gnocchi in a solid, well-composed red sauce -- was fresh, cleanly flavored (no sour, spoiled sauces, no desiccated oregano dandruff), and offered up with a pride that was gone from the previous incarnation long before I first stepped inside.