In English, the Italian word “volare” means “to fly. That is exactly what takes place as the wide ranging menu soars to lofty heights at the popular and recently remodeled Volare Ristorante Italiano in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. My wife and I dined at Volare on a Saturday evening, and were treated to a wonderful experience by owner Benny Siddhu and his very competent and accommodating staff. We were promptly seated for our seven o’clock reservation and left in the capable hands of our charming and attentive server, Paul. After studying the menu which runs the gamut of Italian cuisine, and listening to Paul’s antipasto and entrée specials, we opened with the Neopolitan Pizza appetizer. In a city that is awash in brick oven pizza restaurants, Volare is second to none. Part of the recent upgrade effort at Volare included the addition of a new brick oven. This particular pizza dish was not only delicious, but was more than adequate to whet the appetite of two diners. It consisted of: San Marzano tomatoes, topped with green, yellow and red peppers and then sprinkled with generous amounts of crumbled sausage and Parmesan cheese. The crust was thin, crispy with just the right amount of crunch to it. I paired this dish with a glass of Vivai Chianti which rounded out the experience quite nicely.
On the subject of wine, Volare adds a slightly different twist in the way it sells its wine list. A complete selection of domestic and imported wines is available by the glass, bottle and in some cases half bottles. Volare has added the category of “Quartino” to its offerings. A quartino is a mini- carafe holding approximately one and one half glasses of wine. I found this approach rather unique. I feel that it not only gives the wine consumer more “bang for the buck,” but it provides the added benefit of ordering different varieties to match with the various courses, with the possibility that two diners may enjoy a taste.
As for the entrees, my wife ordered the Pan Seared Halibut - a beautiful presentation consisting of: fava beans, smoked salmon and mushrooms enthroned on a bed of mashed potatoes and finished in a white wine sauce. I took a small bite from her plate before I touched my entrée, and wondered if I had made a mistake in not ordering the same dish. The combinations of ingredients and flavors were impeccable. One would think that mashed potatoes would make for a heavy dish requiring effort to finish, but it was not the case. I ordered the Linguine Zuppa di Mare, and it did not disappoint. The most apt description I can give this dish is to call it a three ring seafood circus; a tasty menagerie of: clams, mussels, calamari, some mixed whitefish with succulent lobster thrown in for good measure. The linguine was cooked to perfection and there was excellent balance in the flavors of the pasta, fish and the mildly spicy fra diavolo red sauce. I ordered a glass of Massone Gavi to enjoy with the zuppa di mare. The Massone had enough acidity to mitigate the spiciness of the fra diavolo sauce.
For dessert, on Paul’s recommendation we shared a confection called “Millefoglie”. A heart stopper consisting of layers of pastry puff sheets filled with cream, and topped with powdered sugar and mixed berries. This dessert alone would merit a visit to Volare. The cream filling was packed with flavor, but with an airy consistency so as not to leave you feeling too full- a testimonial to the talented pastry chef, Selina Torrez.
Volare was established in 1997 and shows no signs of fatigue. At approximately ten o’clock, when my wife and I pushed away from our table, both dining spaces and the bar were filled. Even with its added new space which has created a welcoming yet sophisticated dining room, diners in search of quality and great service are gladly willing to wait. Volare is the complete package. It takes care of business in the kitchen, and the ownership and staff deliver the goods in the dining room. In addition to its expansion, which can service parties of up to one hundred and twenty. Volare offers alfresco seating as well as delivery, take out and of course catering. The restaurant accepts: Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. Entrees range from fifteen to twenty five dollars, and bar service is available. Hours are: 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Monday through Sunday and valet parking is available for ten dollars.
Photos credits: John DiNello
Address: 201 E. Grand Ave.