“Teniamo presente tra noi"

Thu. May 31, 2012 12:00 AM
by Rick Karlin

You know that old movie cliché where the female sidekick to the hero takes off her glasses, shakes out her hair and he suddenly sees her for the beautiful woman she is? That's kind of how it is with Volare, which has been on the scene since 1997. I've passed it many times, but never really noticed it before. After a recent expansion and remodeling, it caught my eye, and, like that character in an old movie, I fell in love instantly. I'd like to keep it that way so, as they say in Italy, "Teniamo presente tra noi" or keep this between us. Volare is popular enough as it is, I don't want to have to wait for a table.

The beautiful dining rooms feature tables that a bit too close together, but this place is so popular I see the need to get as many folks in as possible. There's also a small outdoor space, but not a great view or much in the way of ambiance. Once you are seated though, you are treated like an honored guest and encouraged to enjoy your dining experience as long as you like. The servers are polished, friendly and knowledgeable (and pretty good looking, too). If you're lucky, Mossimo, the head chef, will take a lap around the dining room and then you'll have a feast for the palate AND your eyes.

As attractive as many aspects of the Volare dining experience are, they are nothing compared to the food. I could write an encyclopedia's worth of praise, and still barely scratch the surface. Veteran diners at the restaurant have bemoaned the menu change in which you could play mix and match with pastas and sauces. Personally, I think the addition of the Neopolitan style pizza more than makes up for that.

We began our dinner with a "four seasons" pizza, which featured two slices each of olive, artichoke, proscuitto and mushroom toppings. The crispy crust carried the scent of the wood-fired oven all the way to our table and each topping was delicious. We also enjoyed the mixed grill of buttery sea scallops, tender calamari, smoky octopus and shrimp in balsamic vinaigrette. The avocado and crabmeat salad, presented as a terrine, provided a generous offering of both ingredients. It needed a bit of acid, but was otherwise great.

Another must-have is the squid-ink spaghetti (made in house) served with a variety of seafood in a rich tomato sauce. Lest you think it's all about the seafood, there are a number of chicken and veal dishes and a few chops and steaks on the menu as well. If you're smart enough to dine on a Tuesday night, the special will be osso bucco. The spoon-tender veal shank arrived cooked to perfection with the mire poix of vegetables traditionally served with this dish. It is usually served with risotto, but at my request, pasta was substituted. The gnocchi – also made in-house presented a feathery light version of the ricotta dumpling bathed in a fragrant vodka and mascarpone cheese sauce.

Although it may be difficult to do so, save room for dessert. In addition to the traditional tira misu, I can also recommend the mascarpone napoleon, panne cotta with raspberry puree, crème brulee and the to-die-for steamed chocolate pudding-cake. OMG! As if all this weren't enough reason to dash right down to Volare this minute, the reasonably priced wine list offers a good selection of options by the bottle or glass and valet parking is only $10!

201 E. Grand
(312) 410-9900