Opening Hudson Valley Steakhouse, an elegant new eatery in Yorktown Heights, was more than just a business venture for owners Elvis Cutra and Klevis Tana.
It was a celebration of their passion, their families and the region they’ve come to love.
Born and raised in Albania, each spent his childhood on a family farm and in the kitchen, shadowing relatives.
“The love of growing fresh produce, creating wonderful meals and family experiences was our foundation,” Cutra says.
More than just business partners, Cutra and Tana are brothers-in-law, each married to half of the sister duo that owns and operates the chic Ossining hair salon, VaZa Salon, featured in March 2014 WAG.
The guys’ marriages led to friendship and a shared dream of opening an excellent eatery in northern Westchester. And, they add, they had the experience to get the job done.
Since making the trek to the U.S., the two have worked at some of the most notable restaurants in New York City, including the Rainbow Room and the now defunct Colicchio & Sons.
“Being mentored by some of the best prepared us for branching out on our own,” Cutra says.
At 3360 Old Crompond Road, their restaurant is somewhat tucked away, situated across from a bustling shopping center but off the main road. Once inside, you’ll find a spacious, 4,000-square-foot dining room that is accented by an impressive floor-to-ceiling wine rack. Curtains offer the owners the option to separate part of the room into a private dining space for special events.
The bar and tables have all been handcrafted by Cutra and Tana themselves, made from reclaimed walnut wood sourced from Rochester, New York. While the frigid temperatures kept us from dining al fresco, warmer months will likely see patrons taking advantage of an outdoor patio and dining area.
The crowd inside is a diverse mix, a tribute to the comfortable but sophisticated atmosphere — a couple celebrating an anniversary, a family gathered for a meal, casually dressed friends enjoying a drink at the bar.
In true steakhouse fashion, the menu is simple but sufficient. You’ll find a handful of hot or cold appetizers and half a dozen seafood and poultry options, along with 10 cuts of various steaks and chops.
We start with tomato and fresh Bufala Mozzarella, which is so creamy it nearly melts in my mouth. An order of crunchy fried calamari is tender and flavorful, pairing perfectly with a side of pomodoro sauce.
At Cutra’s recommendation, we opt for the New York sirloin, blackened, juicy and cooked precisely to our taste. Wild salmon is topped with pepper verde sauce in a second entrée. The fish is tender and fresh, not surprising since the eatery has its seafood delivered daily. But the true star is the sauce, creamy and accented by roasted red peppers that add a pleasant kick.
Other recommended highlights from the chef, Tomassino Prengjoni, Tana and Cutra’s uncle-in-law, include a 38-ounce Tomahawk steak that is dry-aged for 31 days, a Colorado rack of lamb with aged Port wine sauce and Maine lobsters that are cracked tableside. USDA Prime premium cut meats are hand-selected and given a stamp of approval by Prengjoni himself.
Each entrée is served unaccompanied, so you’ll need to browse the list of sides — three types of potatoes and five vegetable options — if you’d like something to pair with your main course. We select both sautéed asparagus — Cutra gives us the option of choosing our preferred cooking method — and hash brown potatoes.
Don’t let the name of the latter fool you; these hash browns aren’t your typical fare. They’re sliced thick, fried to a tender crisp and lightly seasoned. Not only are they delicious, they also serve as a perfect tool for sopping up the leftover pepper verde sauce.
It’s hard to imagine that we could be further blown away at this point, but our dessert — warm walnut pecan pie served alongside creamy vanilla ice cream — does just that. Topped with a scattering of berries and powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate sauce, this assortment of flavors, textures and temperatures makes for a satisfying end to our meal.
You can see the owners’ passion for their endeavor both in the way they treat their patrons — we watch staff members sing “Happy Birthday” to not just one, but two different dining groups during our visit — and in the food they serve. It’s comforting, it’s delicious and it’s created with care.
Cutra and Tana themselves are warm and friendly, striking a balance that makes them highly attentive and hospitable without becoming overbearing.
Though the restaurant has not yet been open for a full year, it’s already seen a significant change. The eatery originally opened as Spark Valley Steak House — a homage to their hope of bringing a “spark” to the region — though Cutra and Tana felt that name didn’t adequately reflect their establishment.
The Hudson Valley, after all, is the true inspiration for their venture and the place they call home.
For more, visit hudsonvalleysteakhouse.com.