Willow Lawn dining gets a dash of celebrity

Bryan Voltaggio and Hilda Staples' Family Meal will add to The Shops at Willow Lawn's growing restaurant roster. Photo by Michael Thompson.

Bryan Voltaggio and Hilda Staples’ Family Meal will add to The Shops at Willow Lawn’s growing restaurant roster. Photo by Michael Thompson.

Another celebrity chef is looking to cash in on Richmond’s growing dining scene.

Bryan Voltaggio, who has appeared on popular cable TV cooking shows, plans to open a restaurant at the Shops at Willow Lawn with partner Hilda Staples.

Family Meal will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in a diner-like setting. It has leased 4,000 square feet at 1601 Willow Lawn Drive and will have outdoor seating. It will open in the first quarter of 2015.

“It’s like diner food with more attention to ingredients,” Staples said.

Staples and Voltaggio have opened six other restaurants together in Baltimore and the Washington, D.C. area. They opened the first Family Meal in Frederick, Md. in 2012, and an Ashburn, Va. location is slated to open later this year.

Hilda Staples

Hilda Staples

Diners and food fans may recognize Voltaggio from his appearances on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” a cooking competition show. In 2009, Voltaggio placed second after his brother Michael, and last year he was runner-up on the fifth season of Top Chef Masters.

Staples already has plenty of ties to Richmond. Her husband, Jonathan, co-owns James River Distillery along with Matt Brophy and Kristi Croxton. He is also involved in the upcoming GWARbar in Jackson Ward with Croxton’s husband Travis.

The Croxtons and Hilda Staples are also co-owners of Graffiato in the former Popkin Tavern space. Graffiato, which is still in the works, is a concept from Mike Isabella, who appeared alongside Voltaggio on Top Chef.

“We have a good name and a good reputation,” Staples said. “We wanted to add another option to the chains.”

Staples said it would cost about $1.6 million to renovate and open the Richmond Family Meal in what was previously home to Nostalgia Plus, one of Richmond’s oldest comic book shops. Staples said she and Voltaggio have a group of investors financing the venture. Nostalgia Plus moved in July to a 1,000-square-foot space next door.

Maryland-based Federal Realty Investment Trust owns the Shops at Willow Lawn. The shopping center has attracted at least three other restaurants in recent months, including Travinia Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, American Tap Room and Zoës Kitchen.

Staples said Federal Realty reached out to her and Voltaggio about opening a Family Meal in the shopping center.

“It seems to be centrally located,” Staples said of Willow Lawn. “(Richmond is) a big city but has that small-town feel.”

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