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Food in the Rivertowns

Hudson Prime Steakhouse: An Unexpected Pandemic Progeny

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March 16, 2022

By Shana Liebman–

In July 2021, smack in the middle of the pandemic, Hudson Prime Steakhouse opened in Irvington. Despite its precariously timed launch, Hudson Prime’s decadent steak-centric menu is now luring foodies from all over the New York metro area.

Owners Gino and Floria Uli, who also own Divino Cucina Italiana in Hastings, were initially reluctant to open this place, however. When former owner Frank Salvi approached them mid-pandemic about taking over the Il Sorriso space on the corner of Main Street and North Buckout, they weren’t interested. To end negotiations, however, Gino rattled off a list of seemingly impossible demands. Salvi accepted on the spot.

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“My wife was like ‘nice job getting rid of him!’” Gino laughs.

“We weren’t looking to do a second restaurant, but the opportunity presented itself and it was too good of a deal not to do, so we went for it,” he says. “Even though it was in the middle of the pandemic, we knew that once it was over, people would be anxious to go back out and return to their normal lives.”

The wine cellar: a table set for private parties

The Ulis, who are from Albania and moved from Florida to Ardsley in 2011, have worked in restaurants for 25 years. They have served more than their fair share of steaks and chops, but they had never run a steakhouse.

They hired consultants, including a friend who was a manager at New York’s Sparks Steak House and another who was a chef at The Palm Restaurant. “One of our friends is a butcher inside the Hunts Point Market (where all the steakhouses get their meat) so that was a huge help. Having our own butcher inside the market and being able to be the first ones to pick our loins is by far the biggest advantage,” Gino says.

Other steakhouses, he explains, place their orders with their salespeople, and their loins are loaded in the delivery trucks by warehouse workers. Even though they might be getting prime meat, they are not getting the best loins. “The size, the marbling and the cattle it came from makes all the difference,” Gino says.

The Ulis also decided to import Wagyu from Japan, and not from New Zealand or Australia, which raise the same cattle. “The process of growing these cattle in Japan is totally different and you can tell that by the marbling in the steak, the tenderness and of course the taste.”

Then they had to learn how to age the meat. “For us, 28-30 days is the sweet spot,” Gino says. “Less than that doesn’t have the kick that we look for on an aged steak. At 60 days, the steak literally starts to taste like blue cheese.”

After it’s dry-aged inhouse, the steaks—including porterhouse, tomahawk, New York strip, cowboy, boneless ribeye and filet mignon —are cooked in one of three 800°F infrared broilers. “Thirty seconds on each side, you get medium-rare,” Gino says.

And the steak is exceptional, especially the pricey Wagyu, served rare. The buttery meat is expertly seasoned and melts in your mouth. As Gino says, “it will ruin you.”

Waygu steak: pricey but cuts like butter

The rest of the menu is ambitious, starting with a seafood tower and saucy sushi tacos and moving on to complex salads, rich pastas and a variety of meat and fish dishes. There’s Chilean seabass with asparagus, mushrooms, butternut squash and tomato coulis; toasted ricotta gnocchi topped with truffle cream sauce and cracked peppercorns; a parmesan-crusted chicken breast with white lemon sauce, asparagus and tourneé potatoes. The dishes are well-conceived, but many could use a little more love — and flavor. In terms of the menu, less might be more.

The perfectly al dente, meaty cavatelli made with 24-hour braised short rib and mascarpone, however, is a standout. As is the grilled octopus. But this is a place you go to for the steak, and on that score it rivals any steakhouse in the city.

The impressive, international wine list with big-name Cabernets is housed in a handsome wine cellar, which also serves as a private party room for 16. And the elegant 112-seat restaurant (with 50 more on a patio that overlooks the Hudson) is also an ideal place for a party. Or an intimate dinner. The service is impeccable – friendly and informed yet unobtrusive.

“We are of Albanian heritage,” Floria explains. “When someone visits an Albanian household, everyone stands up and the guests sit. Albanian mothers at home give better service than five-star restaurants. Hospitality is in our blood.”

The Hudson Prime happy hour, with $10 drinks and $15 small plates like beef tartare, is the best in Irvington. And on Saturday mornings, the restaurant becomes a meat market, where whole loins are brought out and customers can choose their cuts.

Hudson Prime owners Gino and Floria Ali

The Ulis may not have foreseen a steakhouse in their lives, but they’ve done an incredible job bringing Hudson Prime to life. It’s a stellar addition to a town in need of special places.

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