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As new Hell’s Kitchen Mediterranean eatery Molyvos prepares to welcome customers this fall, operators from the Livanos family plan to close their other West Side spot, Hudson West.

Hudson West Kitchen + Craft Bar will close next Friday. Photo: Phil O’Brien

In an Instagram post, the family announced the closure of the restaurant beneath VIA 57, which opened in 2017 as Ouisa before rebranding to Hudson West in 2021. “After five exciting years on the far west side, the Livanos family is saying goodbye to Hudson West Kitchen + Craft Bar on August 26, 2022,” read the post. “Since our opening in January 2017, we have been proud to serve the community that quickly became part of our extended family. We appreciate all of you who have dined with us originally at Ousia and recently at Hudson West.”

Enrico Livanos — who, along with brother Johnny, operated Hudson West — spoke to W42ST about the triumphs and tribulations of running a restaurant on the far West Side. “When we first decided to come to this neighborhood, we were excited at the opportunity to pioneer a new area of Manhattan,” said Enrico. “We thought that we could really put our flag down, and originally that’s how it was,” he added.

“Things were going really, really well from 2017 into 2018 —but then we had our first speed bump,” said Enrico. “We had a water main break in the apartment building above us, and it flooded the restaurant, which took us out of commission for about two and a half months in 2018.”

After reopening, the restaurant managed to rebound, flourishing among both regular patrons and the boon of business from the now-shuttered Landmark movie theater. “The Landmark was an exceptional tenant on our block,” said Enrico, adding that in addition to pre- and post-show diners, Hudson West was frequently able to host private events for premieres and screenings. Going into 2020, “this was exactly what we envisioned,” said Enrico. “Good business, good private events and feeding the local community — it was all very exciting.”

Nick Livanos — photographed at Hudson West on Friday afternoon — has happy memories of the restaurant and the “remarkable landlords”. Photo: Phil O’Brien

But predictably, the pandemic shutdown of 2020 “floored us,” said Enrico, as a mass exodus of Manhattanites, the closure of the Landmark as well as workers at the nearby CBS Broadcasting offices staying home and minuscule takeout orders decimated their previously thriving establishment.

Enrico and Johnny quickly pivoted, choosing to rebrand to Hudson West and adjust their menu offerings “thinking that the community in this far West neighborhood might want a more eclectic menu offering a variety of different cuisines,” he added, “but the momentum never seemed to pick back up.”

In making the difficult decision to close, Enrico emphasized that their landlords, The Durst Organization, were extremely supportive, adding: “this was a mutual parting of ways where we both acknowledged that the business wasn’t working for either of us — they’ve been remarkable landlords and I can’t say enough good things about them.”

The Livanos family has a long legacy of operating fine Greek dining restaurants. After John Livanos moved to the US from Greece in 1957, he worked his way up from washing dishes to running his own luncheonette in Manhattan, before moving to fine dining in White Plains and opening Livanos, now known as City Limits. Children Nick, Bill and Corina (as well as Nick’s children Enrico and Johnny) joined their father in business and helped to open Oceana (near Rockefeller Center at W49th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue), Ousia/Hudson West and the original Molyvos located near Carnegie Hall. 

The eatery, named after John’s hometown on the Greek island of Lesbos (where the Livanos crew returns regularly to a family home retained through the years), Molyvos enjoyed regular tourist and local patronage until the pandemic — when shutdowns, depleted foot traffic and a lack of takeout business in the commercial district made it clear that the restaurant wouldn’t be able to stay in its original location.

The launch team at Hudson West — (from left) Miguel Olguin, Enrico Livanos, John Tsagaris, Vasiliki Vourliotaki and Johnny Livanos. Photo: Phil O’Brien.

After landlords let them out of the lease early, Nick Livanos set his sights on finding a new home for Molyvos, hoping to settle into a welcoming community of regulars and retain some of the tourist traffic of pre-theater diners. 

At the height of the pandemic, “I always walked Ninth Avenue between Hudson West and Oceana because it was the most festive and had the most activity,”  Nick told W42ST in March. “Even when the city streets got eerily quiet during the shutdown, I really came to like it. I got to know the different storefronts, and in the end, it was my daily walk that led me to find a Hell’s Kitchen location for Molyvos.”

A corner at W43rd Street and 9th Avenue — vacant after the closure of seafood restaurant Esca — proved to be the right match. After months of community board and block association proposals, planning and construction, the new Molyvos plans to open its doors to eager customers in mid-September. Nick hopes that the eatery’s new home, surrounded by what he described as the joyfully “small town” atmosphere of Hell’s Kitchen, will be a permanent one.

Molyvos will take over the space vacated by Esca during the pandemic. Photo: Phil O’Brien

For Enrico, a Hell’s Kitchen local himself, the choice was also clear. “My family and I love Hell’s Kitchen — we love the Hell’s Kitchen community,” he added. “It’s such a true New York eating destination and it’s exciting for us to join that landscape and contribute what we can to it. The opportunity to stay in this area and still be able to connect with the regulars, the families and the friends that we’ve made from the 57 West area was what we wanted,” he said, and “to still have somewhere relatively close for people to come see us and to do what we do best.”

For Enrico, what the Livanos family does best is focus on their well-honed Greek cuisine and cultivate a warm, intimate atmosphere, for which he believes the smaller space at Molyvos is the perfect fit. “I’m tremendously excited to go back to Greek cuisine,” said Enrico. “I think it naturally is the essence of who we are and translates easier as a product for my family. And I’m excited to experiment with a new business model,” he added. “Traditionally we look for slightly larger locations, and now we have this opportunity to do a 65-seat restaurant that will be far easier to manage and an opportunity for us to really focus on the cuisine and hospitality.”

Workers this weekend getting Molyvos ready underneath Manhattan Plaza. Photo: Sarah Mills.

For now, the family prepares to send off Hudson West in style, encouraging neighbors to come out for one last Branzino before the fall launch of Molyvos. “We have so much gratitude for the amount of people who really have left a tremendous impact on my brother and I as the managers, and also on my whole family. Our guests connected with us on such a personal level — a lot of our customers really did feel like extended family,” he added.

“It was a pleasure and an honor to help build up this area and to provide high-quality food, high-quality ingredients and craft cocktails,” said Enrico as he looks to the next chapter. “I’m very, very thankful for everyone who supported us and everybody who hosted anything from a graduation party to a bridal shower to a baby shower to the many people who decided to celebrate their 80th, 90th and 100th birthdays here,” he added.

Molyvos will open the space vacated by Esca during the pandemic, Photo: Sarah Mills

“My staff and I always connected with those who wanted to come and celebrate — even if it was just a solo diner who wanted a sandwich and a beer and to watch the game — it was really a place for people to come and have an extension of their own dining rooms and an extension of their own family. We want to give a heartfelt thank you to those who stuck with us over the past five years, and everyone who’s reached out during this time. It’s not goodbye, it’s see you down the block!”

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3 Comments

  1. Welcome. welcome! It’s grand to have the Livanos family on our block with a fabulous menu that is affordable for us all.

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