A Family Meal With the Voltaggio Brothers
“Imagine if you could build your dream house and turn it into a restaurant,” says Michael Voltaggio. “That’s what this is.” He’s talking about Voltaggio Brothers Steak House, which opened this past December inside the new $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor resort, a 23-acre mega-complex 20 minutes from downtown DC, overlooking the Potomac. With its casino, star-chef restaurants, concert venue and 27,000-square-foot luxury spa, it’s the last place you’d describe as homey—until you step inside the 190-seat restaurant, designed to mimic a comfortable, albeit luxurious, family home. There’s a library with midcentury modern sofas and a wall full of books; a family room with ’70s-inspired orange plaid and beige tufted leather walls; and, of course, a dining room, where round tables and sleekly updated Colonial spindle chairs lead into a kitchen crowded with busy cooks.
“People say this is just like the house we grew up in,” says Michael.
“Uh, no,” chimes in his brother Bryan.
How fitting that home is the theme of the Voltaggios’ first restaurant venture together. The suburban Maryland location is only 60 miles from Frederick, where the brothers grew up. Bryan has five restaurants in the area; Michael has three in Los Angeles. There’s a natural rivalry between the pair, as anyone who watched them compete on Top Chef: Las Vegas knows (Michael won; Bryan was runner-up). They still talk over and correct each other. But as they’ve matured—Bryan is now 40, and Michael is 38—they’ve realized they have complementary skills (Bryan, the quieter of the two, is a big-picture thinker and multitasker; Michael is all about the details) and that together, they’re an unstoppable force in the kitchen. “Plus, we love each other,” says Michael. “Most of the time.”
The dishes they created are idealized versions of the steakhouse classics they loved as kids. Sure, there are mashed potatoes, but they’re exceedingly rich, with what Michael calls the perfect ratio of butter to potatoes: 40/60. Instead of croutons, the Caesar salad is studded with anchovy-Parmesan hush puppies, little umami bombs that nod to the region’s culinary traditions. Shrimp cocktail comes with pickled daikon and Old Bay–seasoned crab crackers inspired by their favorite potato chip flavor from nearby icon Utz.
“The homiest thing about the food is how it’s served,” says Michael. Unlike at most steakhouses, everything comes to the table family-style. It’s a deliberate antidote to a world of small plates and ultra-composed dishes. “This is the way people eat at home,” he adds. “You put a bowl of green beans and a platter of steak on the table and everyone digs in. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”
His brother nods in agreement and adds,“I can’t wait for Mom to see it.”