Four Questions for Michael and Bryan Voltaggio
Brothers, Top Chef stars, James Beard honorees, and frequent Vegas visiting chefs
This fall, you did a second multiweek run at Harvest in the Bellagio. Your other restaurants are steak and seafood. Why Italian for the pop-up?
Michael Voltaggio: Bryan and I grew up around Italian cuisine, I mean our name is Voltaggio. We went in a different direction professionally up until now, but the discipline of cooking is the same. We’re always looking to nuance things that have some lineage. We’ve got rigatoni and arancino, we’ve got crudo — all of these words that mean classic dishes. But what Bryan and I have done over the years is create new versions of something that's been done before.
How did you choose what to put on the menu?
Bryan Voltaggio: That was fun and difficult at the same time ... There are some similar concepts we have on the horizon for the end of this year, first part of next year which lean into the Italian-American cuisine genre. But …pizza - we haven't done that collectively. We’ve cooked pizza, but we haven't put that on our menu since we’ve been partnering together.
MV: Bryan went with one of our chefs and trained for two weeks with a pizzaiolo just to prepare for this to make sure that, if we're serving pizza, it's the best possible pizza we can serve ... Just homing in on things like working on pizzas for a few weeks before we come to Las Vegas – that's how much preparation went into this pop-up.
BV: Michael shares the same sentiment when it comes to being a cook and a chef: We’re always students of what we do, and whenever we’re given the opportunity to continue to learn something, we always immerse ourselves in it. I mean, it's rare we have time to go and take two weeks to learn technique or experience it. But traveling and sharing information with our colleagues is how we push ourselves as chefs.
BV: While we’ve been here, we’ve been dining in other restaurants. It’s been a great experience not only to cook here, but also to sit down on the other side and experience it as a guest. It’s a great culinary town. We love being here.
MV: Las Vegas is one of the most exciting food towns in the whole country right now, because everything is behind the restaurant. I feel like it’s one of those cities where the restaurants can still do anything — the economics are there, the people are there, the support, the need, the desire are all there. There’s always something happening here, and the only reason something doesn't happen in Vegas is, somebody didn’t think of it yet. We went to the Mayfair Supper Club last night ... knowing very little about it and just found ourselves having the best time, and I think that speaks to the surprises you can find in this city ... the ability some of these restaurants have to transport you somewhere else has been incredible.
So, would you want to have a permanent restaurant here in Las Vegas?
MV: Yeah, that’s certainly been a goal for us — I don't know that we thought it was an attainable goal when we started our careers … Alain Ducasse, Charlie Palmer, Daniel Boulud, Hubert Keller — the chefs who came to this city and brought their concepts with them, we never thought that could be us. And now that we’re here doing it, it's pretty surreal.
BV: I think that, at this point, because we've got to know the city and the hospitality and the incredible support we've gotten as we’ve done this pop-up, there's nothing more we’d want than a space here in Las Vegas.
MV: This pop-up happened in Vegas and hopefully it stays in Vegas! ✦