After a week of coy tweets and an intriguing video, "Top Chef" veteran Bryan Voltaggio revealed his newest project, Aggio, on Valentine's Day. Fitting, because it's a love letter to the Italian cuisine of his heritage. Here's what you need to know before you make a reservation.
Aggio is a restaurant within a restaurant, bringing to mind the former Xzibit meme ("Yo Dawg, I heard you like eating, so I put a restaurant in your restaurant so you can eat while you eat!"). Range has converted its former private dining room into the new 80-seat restaurant, which has its own host stand and waiting area, though you can still check in with the Range hosts at the main entrance. It has a complementary decor scheme to Range, with muted grays, clean lines, and modern light fixtures.
— Kristin (@vtHokies98) February 15, 2014
Though the video of Voltaggio making meatballs with his bros seems to imply that the restaurant is casual and easygoing, it's actually quite formal. More formal than Range, in fact. This is a white-tablecloth restaurant, and the style of service is traditional. It's more expensive, too. Where Range offers pizzas and small plates that average about $15, Aggio's menu is smaller and pricier, with salads and antipasti beginning at $12; the most luxe dish on the menu, a steak florentine with sea urchin, tops out at $54. There's also a six-course tasting menu for $95, with optional wine pairings for $65.
Aggio is big on pasta. The opening menu offers six choices: Radiatori with vodka sauce, cavatelli and clams, carbonara with braised pork jowl, meatballs, a hearty lamb ragu, and a squid-ink spaghetti bolognese with calamari. Other entrees include prawns and polenta in fra diavolo sauce, turbot with sunchokes and a veal shank with bone marrow atop saffron farro.
Each diner is presented with a fun Parmesan funnel cake for an amuse bouche, followed by starters including a beet salad, a tuna crudo with blood oranges and two tentacles of octopus coiled around a mound of lentils and wheat berries. Olive oil cake with pistachio cream, sorbet and zeppole are among the desserts. And the drink menu takes its cues from the Rat Pack music that plays throughout dinner, with reimagined classic cocktails named after Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis. Jr.
He's opening another Aggio in Baltimore, first reported by the Baltimore Sun. It will be in the Power Plant Live building at the Inner Harbor, and is expected to open mid-spring.
Along with Range, Family Meal, and Volt, Aggio is both Voltaggio's fourth and fifth restaurant. It will be joined by a Chevy Chase outpost of Lunchbox, the grab-and-go restaurant Voltaggio originally opened in Frederick (but has since closed) later this year. And if he keeps up this naming convention for his restaurants, we can expect Br and Yan to open in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Aggio, 5335 Wisconsin Avenue NW. 202-803-8020.