Walking briskly, bundled in scarves and hoods on a blustery December evening, we nearly walk past The Hill Bistro. Despite its name in lights above the entrance, the small, darkened interior is somewhat easy to miss if you’re not paying attention — or if you’re too cold to focus.
But once inside, we’re met not only by the warmth of the restaurant itself, but also the warmth of owners Ramzi and Iggy Khoury, both genial and welcoming.
The sibling duo opened The Hill Bistro in their Riverdale hometown last year, marking another in a string of restaurants and establishments the two have launched in partnership.
“We’re from the neighborhood, and we wanted to give something like a Manhattan-type of feel to Riverdale,” Ramzi says.
Opening the restaurant, however, was far from a simple task. The brothers had to completely gut the previous structure prior to The Hill Bistro’s opening. Completing that renovation put another of the duo’s skills to work. Along with the restaurant, the serial entrepreneurs own MACC General Construction Corp., which has completed a range of projects across Westchester County and New York City. That construction business is mostly run by Ramzi, while Iggy helms the Bronx eatery.
“I’m up at 5 in the morning, and he goes to sleep at 3 in the morning,” Ramzi says with a laugh. “He’s got the nightlife. I do the daytime.”
The months-long renovation of the Riverdale restaurant has resulted in a modern, cozy eatery with industrial accents and fixtures. Hoping to steer away from a sports bar feel with large-screen TVs and ESPN, Iggy opted instead for a projector aimed at an empty brick wall that shows a rotation of classic Hollywood films.
“Nobody comes here and ever says they feel like they’re sitting in Riverdale,” Ramzi says.
The brothers, who trace their roots to Lebanon, say the restaurant’s menu was inspired by a range of cuisines. Some offerings, like hummus and pita, were influenced by their own Mediterranean lineage, while other dishes possess a New American or Portuguese flair.
“There’s a lot of twists in the menu,” Ramzi says, before Iggy adds, “I kind of kept a small menu to try to perfect everything and make everything great.”
Before we sample the menu, we’re offered a basket filled with slivers of perfectly seasoned bread, a start that leaves us highly optimistic for the rest of our meal.
We move on to a delectable cream of tomato soup served with a slice of bruschetta covered in melted mozzarella. Creamy and packed with flavor, the dish proves the perfect remedy for a chilly evening.
We can’t pass up a range of meatballs and settle on a trio of offerings, including savory chicken meatballs served on a bed of caramelized onions and salmon zucchini meatballs with cream of dill. Taking a hint from Ramzi, we sample a beet and kale option served over creamed spinach, a light, fresh dish that exceeds even his glowing recommendation.
A white truffle spinach dip is another standout of the evening, mouthwateringly fragrant and perfect for piling atop slices of pita bread.
For entrées, we’re treated to a heaping pan-seared veal chop, topped with sun-dried tomatoes and a mushroom sauce. A stuffed leg of chicken is served in a sweet wine reduction and paired with some of the most comforting mashed potatoes I’ve ever tasted.
Though we’re sure we can’t enjoy another bite, we can’t help but end our evening with a slice of cheesecake, rich, thick and perfectly sweet, served atop a caramel sauce drizzle.
As we say goodbye to the Khourys, we’re, already spouting off the dishes we plan to try on our next visit. I think it’s safe to say this is one restaurant we’ll return to again and again.
For more, visit thehillbistro.com.