West Side fans of Greek food and wine will have plenty to smile about when the Livanos family reopens Midtown go-to Molyvos beneath Manhattan Plaza on Friday.
While they are “awaiting the final OK” from ConEd to get the gas turned on, the longtime family-owned eatery is readying itself for service with a soft-opening menu that includes fan favorites like ouzo-cured Atlantic salmon, spanakopita, stuffed peppers and moussaka, said owner Nick Livanos. He is operating the eatery with sons John and Enrico, who previously headed up Hell’s Kitchen’s Hudson West on W57th Street.
“We’ve been fully staffed for a while now, and we’ve kept our staff working [during construction],” said Nick, adding that the team was more than ready to welcome customers into their new space, a cozy corner spot on W43rd Street and 9th Avenue at the ground floor of Manhattan Plaza that was formerly occupied by seafood restaurant Esca.
After Molyvos’ first restaurant near to Carnegie Hall was forced to close during the COVID-19 shutdown, Nick discovered the empty space while walking the blocks of Hell’s Kitchen in the early days of the pandemic. He chose the spot not only for its attractive location amid the hustle and bustle of Hell’s Kitchen and its proximity to the Theater District, but also for its convivial community ambience.
In the weeks leading up to their opening, Nick said, “All I need to do is stand in front of the restaurant and — no exaggeration —person after person will stop and talk to me to ask, ‘When are you opening? We’re so excited! We’re so happy you’re here!’ I’ve never in my life experienced that neighborly of a welcome.”
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“Being in Midtown [where the original Molyvos and another Livanos property, Oceana resides], it’s not quite the same. Here it’s very different — we truly feel like we’re part of the neighborhood,” he added.
His son, Enrico, told W42ST that as the family prepared to close the doors on Hudson West, they were happy to be able to keep roots in the area. “My family and I love Hell’s Kitchen — we love the Hell’s Kitchen community,” said Enrico, who lives in the neighborhood. “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.”
After a long period of construction, Molyvos’ new home boasts an elegant new design, crafted to welcome diners into the space named after Nick’s father’s hometown in Lesvos, Greece. One key feature is the eatery’s wine display, built to showcase the restaurant’s extensive beverage program. “We have about 750 wines — possibly the largest Greek wine list in the world,” said Nick. He is operating the eatery with longtime partner Kamal Kouiri (who is the managing partner and wine director) along with his sons John and Enrico, who previously headed up Hell’s Kitchen’s Hudson West on W57th Street.
One element still in the works? “The outdoor space is almost complete, even though at this point we’re going to miss the season,” said Nick. The team is finishing construction on a large ceramic wall that mimics the interior dining area, as well as a large ornamental metal olive tree to complete the space. “We’re onto the last details, but I think it’s going to be the most inviting outdoor space in New York,” added Nick.
But even as they complete the finishing touches on the W43rd Street location, Nick, John and Enrico were excited to invite patrons into a space that resembled the earliest days of the Livanos family restaurants. “It’s nice, it’s kind of like we’re returning to our roots,” said Nick. “We started small and eventually had big restaurants, and now, we’re back to small again and I’m so happy about it.”
Molyvos soft opens for dinner from 5-11pm on Friday October 28.