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Seeing Triple: Triplets Serves Enough To Feed Three

October 27, 1988 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Portions are big enough for three, and what else would one expect at a restaurant called Triplets?

What’s remarkable is that none of the three owners knew they were triplets until age 19, when they met and became best friends, roommates, classmates and, eventually, business partners.

Robert Shafran, Eddy Galland and David Kellman were born on Long Island 27 years ago, adopted at birth and raised in the area. Not even their adoptive parents knew they were triplets, said Galland.

″We were all fat kids with brown curly hair, and we knew we were adopted. We were comfortable with it,″ he said.

In 1979, Galland went to Sullivan County Community College, but transferred the next year. ″Bobby came the next semester to Sullivan, and my friends thought I was back,″ Galland said.

One friend asked Shafran his birth date and whether he was adopted, and then told him he probably had a twin. News stories were published about the brothers, and when Kellman saw one, he realized the twins were triplets.

On Sept. 18, 1980, they met.

″It was like we always knew each other. It was instant - an incredible feeling,″ said Galland. ″We knew immediately that we wanted to spend a lot of time together.″

″It was total excitement,″ said Kellman. ″It was electric.″

They all transferred to City University of New York, rented an apartment, got a parrot named Zack, and turned down book offers.

They earned degrees in business and international marketing.

Eventually, they got jobs at Sammy’s Famous Roumanian Restaurant, a boistrous, Lower East Side institution known for huge portions and familial atmosphere.

They learned their lessons well, and in January opened Triplets Roumanian Restaurant in the Soho section of Manhattan, serving similar ambiance and abundant, Eastern European food.

It seats 200, and while people come in as strangers, the brothers try to make sure they don’t leave that way.

Intentionally just a tad tacky, Triplets has a big awning with cartoon faces of the owners outside; inside, on three levels, there are mauve banquettes, mirrors and dozens of color photographs of diners having the time of their lives.

There are T-shirts and coffee mugs, decorated with the triplets’ mugs. A Triplets club offers discounts and special events. On each table is a light- hearted, comic book-style version of the brothers’ story.

Sometimes, there are comedians, belly dancers, musicians, sing-alongs. The words to such songs as ″Hava Nagila″ and ″New York, New York″ are printed in the menus.

″People walk in and say, ’Who’s the bar mitzvah boy?‴ said Shafran.

The brothers divide chores, but Shafran said: ″All of us talk about what we’re looking for. We can cover each other’s responsibilities. Our paths cross constantly.″

And they clown around almost constantly. They tell half jokes, laughing before anyone on the outside has heard enough to get them.

Sitting recently around a table in their restaurant, the brothers are distinguishable - Shafran’s the largest, Kellman the smallest. Kellman also is reputed to be the most level-headed, Galland the most volatile. Shafran and Kellman are married; Galland is single.

But there’s no doubt they’re triplets.

They’re gregarious, show signs of working out, and dress fashionably. Each had a similar upbringing with upper middle-class Jewish families. They’ve been studied by researchers looking at similarities and differences among separated twins and triplets.

Galland said they are not interested in finding their biological parents, and won’t discuss the subject.

But they’ll talk plenty about the comforts of home they offer at Triplets.

Huge portions of steak, veal chops or chicken, stuffed cabbage, chopped liver, chicken soup, mashed potatoes with chicken cracklings and potato pancakes.

Syrup pitchers of schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) sit on each table, along with blue siphons of seltzer. The seltzer is essential for the egg creams diners with any appetite left mix up after dessert, using the traditional Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup and milk.

Why such fare when Americans are being urged to cut down on fat and salt?

″We don’t expect to see the same people every night. Let people have their whole-grain rice and their sushi five nights a week and then come here,″ said Galland. ″I can’t tell you how many times people say, ’I haven’t eaten like this since my mother was alive, or since my grandmother was alive.‴