I first met Joni Lanza at her Garrison farm in February 2012, early one quiet morning as she milked her sweetly cooperative Nubian goats. The next time I saw her, she was rocking out as the lead singer with the Joni Blondell Band at a raucous, packed Femme Fabulous concert that raised $10,000 for Hope’s Door. (For the fashion-forward, Joni’s milking attire is very different from her performing outfits.)
The Femme Fabulous concert was on the big stage at Peekskill’s fab new Hudson Room, a shiny, inviting restaurant that Louie Lanza has opened on South Division Street right around the corner from the Paramount. I’ve now eaten there four times, the food is really, really great and it seemed obvious to go back to Lanza Farm, meet Joni’s husband, and get the scoop on the energetic success of the yummy, inviting and local farm-to-table Hudson Room.
It was snowing hard and school was closed again, but driving up to the 40 acre mountainside farm, it was clear that the farm was not closed. Although farmyards in winter can look a bit bedraggled, here everything was tidy, busy and a rooster managed the snow drifts to give a hospitable cock-a-doodle-do welcome. Inside, the three Lanza kiddos played Lego by the fire and we three grownups chatted about the Hudson Room.
Louie Lanza has been a chef all his working life. He started in a seafood restaurant in San Mateo, California, working five days a week. On the other two days, he sold vegetables for Tony Tantillo, now famous as the “Fresh Grocer” on CBS. By the time he was 30, Louie had moved back to New York and was Executive Chef at seven popular restaurants, including Memphis, the famous BBQ place. He comments wryly that “One of those restaurants had 17 partners” and that, when he decided to move out of Manhattan his friends laughed. “But,” he says, “I couldn’t be happier: the raw talent here in the Hudson Valley is simply amazing.”
Louie continues: “With generations of farmers on both sides of our families, we are obsessed with fresh food. And now we can supply the Hudson Room from our own place. Joni’s goat herd is very productive and she makes amazing butter and cheeses. We also have chickens, ducks and this year we have 1,300 maple trees tapped. We use the syrup at The Hudson Room as an ingredient in BBQ sauce, goat cheese cake, crème brulee, tomato sauce… “AND!” chimes in one of the Lanza lads, “I am inventing a maple kale dish for the restaurant!”
The Hudson Room also has spectacular sushi. The sushi chef has been with Louie for 12 years and “is a pain in the neck because he will not cut anything until it is ordered. But, of course, that is the correct way to make sushi so we just have to explain this better to our customers. Yes, it is a little bit slower, but it is a lot fresher.”
Meat lovers will be thrilled to hear that Louis is adding an aging room for the spectacular meats served at The Hudson Room. During a recent outing, a friend from (Don’t Mess with) Texas ordered the “Bavette” steak and I thought, “oh no, hope this measures up…” It certainly did: Ms. Cowgirl raved and said it was the best steak she’s ever had.
Don’t you mess around and miss the high energy fun and delicious food being served up at the Hudson Room. Celebrate St Patrick’s Day March 14th and see Joni rock the Joni Blondell Band later that evening. The music usually starts at 10PM, with the notable exception of a Gospel Brunch on Easter Sunday (April 5th). I’ve heard that there is a Lanza plan to open a waterfront tacos and tequila joint so get up and get out and see what’s going on at the Hudson Room. If that rooster could manage the snow, so can you.
The Hudson Room, 23 S Division St, Peekskill, NY 10566 (914) 788-3663 hudsonroom.com