For Linden Pride and Nathalie Hudson, the husband-and-wife team behind New York mainstay Dante, creating a sense of community is key.
The pair first met at college in Sydney before moving to New York together. Hudson began teaching international law and human rights online for Sydney University, while Pride took a job with AvroKO Hospitality Group as GM of the now-shuttered NoHo restaurant Saxon + Parole. He stayed with the New York multidisciplinary studio, traveling frequently to help open various restaurants for the firm around the globe.
“He was away for eight months of the year, and I wanted to start a family,” Hudson says. “The only way we could govern our own hours and raise a family together would be if we were self-employed. I told Linden to choose the business, and I would do whatever I could to make it happen. And here we are owning restaurants.”
Hudson and Pride purchased Caffe Dante, a circa-1915 Greenwich Village café, in 2015. Dante West Village followed in 2020 with Dante Beverly Hills debuting at the Maybourne hotel in 2023. Here, the restaurateurs share their recipe for success.
What did you set out to create with Dante?
Nathalie Hudson: Coming from Australia to New York, I was shocked at how I could go to the same coffee shop around the corner from my house every day and they would look at me like it was the first time they had ever seen me. We wanted to create a community of people.
Linden Pride: That sense of community was something we missed [when we first moved to] New York. Working with AvroKO was so fundamental in my understanding of hospitality. AvroKO created holistic concepts that were not just about the food, but also about the design, music, ambiance, the way you feel when you walk in the space. It felt like you were a part of something. It becomes like a sanctuary.
What is your goal as a restaurateur?
NH: I want you to love coming to the restaurant. I want to look after you. I want to create an experience for you. I want it to feel like you’re home.
You don’t have a restaurant if you don’t have guests, but you also don’t have a restaurant, if you don’t have staff. That’s the other equation. Ninety percent of our staff have been with us for over four years. Not many places can say that, especially after the pandemic. That’s how you create hospitality.
How did your design develop from the first phase of Dante to the second phase?
NH: In [Caffe Dante], it was a little bit sad. [Before we bought the space], it was an internet café for NYU students. I tried to restore all its character from old photographs. It’s a unique space—and I wanted to capture everything that it had been over the last 100 years. I put in the Preston ceilings again, cleaned the original flooring, and placed the bar back to where it first was from the photos.
West Village was done over Covid. I had a bit more time, so I created a restaurant that’s an amalgamation of all of my favorite bars and restaurants.
LP: Dante is a New York restaurant but with the European sensibilities of an all-day café or eatery, where even if it’s casual, it’s elevated. That edge between accessible and premium is something Nathalie does so well.
How did your vision evolve with the Beverly Hills outpost?
NH: At Beverly Hills, Linden and I walked into the room—it had been an old storage space and event room—and [noticed] the incredible dome ceiling. We had spent the summer in Italy and had taken the girls to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, and we both had the same idea: to make the ceiling the focal point. We worked with artist Abel Macias on the ceiling, and that is how the rest of the restaurant’s design came together.
LP: It made sense for us to work with a local LA artist and take that patina of colors you see through the mountains and the hills of Los Angeles and incorporate it into the space. When we think about California, we think about the outdoors and this lighter, healthier lifestyle and that’s reflected in the menu, but we also wanted to have it reflected in the way you feel in the room. The best way to do that was through art.
How do you elevate the diner experience at Dante?
NH: It’s all in the details. We have this honeybee cocktail, which is like an espresso martini, and we’re able to print photos on top of it. When someone makes a reservation and says it’s their husband’s birthday or an office anniversary, we spend a lot of time Googling or looking at their Instagram [to find a photo to serve on their cocktail]. Going that extra mile makes them feel really special.
As a couple, how has it been working together all these years?
NH: I can’t imagine working with anybody else. I’m always advocating to other couples to do it. It’s the best, especially when you have a family. Our strengths and weaknesses complement each other. We’re the type of people who bring our work home with us, so it’s better to be working on the same issues together. It allows us to dream together.