Location: 201 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60611
A Quick Word:
I have mentioned several times that finding an authentic Italian restaurant in Chicago is somehow much harder than expected. Many of my friends agree, especially the ones that have lived in Italy or travel their on a yearly basis. Anyway, it was my friend's birthday and she decided on Volare. It was my first time to the restaurant, but with such great recommendations from her and her family/friends, I was optimistic. On a Thursday night, the restaurant was packed. The restaurant was on the darker side and extremely loud. But, this is what you can expect in most Italian restaurants in the city. The food was served in HUGE portions. I think some of the quantity takes away from the quality of the dish. Pastas are shareable as are the meat dishes. They have a great selection of wine and cocktails. Some of their dishes were just not as appetizing as I hoped. Some where great, while others mediocre at best. And for that reason, I think the 4-mile rating may be on the generous side. But when compared to some of the other restaurants in Chicago, I didn't feel comfortable rating it lower.
What We Ate:
Fritto di Calamari
We decided on a couple orders of Volare's calamari to share as appetizers. Their version is heavy on the breading before being deep fried. It is served with lemon wedges and both a spicy tomato and cocktail sauce. I was very disappointed with this appetizer. There was nothing unique about it and the breading was too thick. It tasted like any other deep fried dish. The cocktail sauce is still the better of the two dips, but you can't really mess that part of the dish up. Probably wouldn't order again.
As our third appetizer dish, the group agreed with the birthday girl's pizza choice. She wanted to try the salsiccia pizze. The pizza crust was thin and topped with a San Marzano tomato sauce, sausage, mozzarella and parmigiano cheese, and red pepper flakes. The crust is cooked in a special pizza oven... unsure if it is wood fired or not. Regardless, the crust had that crisp, burnt texture that reminded me of Italy. The toppings were great, but the red pepper flakes sort of ruined the pizza. I couldn't believe they would pre-sprinkle the red pepper on the pizza. It made the pizza look more generic and "Americanized." I think for the cost, a higher quality ingredient can accompany the rest of the great toppings.
Spaghetti Neri al Pesce
After scanning the menu several times, I decided on ordering the same dish as the birthday girl and several of her family and friends. And, I was glad I did. The spaghetti neri al pesce is a black spaghetti dish, meaning the black squid ink is mixed in while the noodles are made. These black noodles were topped with several shrimp, lumps of crab meat, a few scallops, and a brandy and cream rose sauce. The pasta was excellent. It was cooked perfectly and had an interesting, yet delicious fishy taste. The squid ink flavor was not overwhelming and was complimented nicely by all the fresh seafood and the creamy tomato sauce. The pasta dish is huge; in fact, it is shareable. I highly recommend this dish.
Fusilloni al Ragu di Vitello
I was torn between this dish and the dish I ended up ordering. Luckily, one of my friends sitting next to me decided on ordering it, meaning I got to sneak a bite. Her pasta dish was made with the fusilloni pasta and then topped with a veal ragu, porcini mushrooms, peas, pecorino cheese, and a cream sauce. That veal ragu grabbed my attention immediately. You can tell it was cooked down for several hours with the mean extremely tender and flavorful. The addition of the mushrooms and peas added both a visually appealing element and depth in flavor. The pasta was a little on the "soupier" side, but I really enjoyed it. Another dish I would definitely recommend.
Vitello al Parmigiana
One of my other friends choose the veal parmesan aka vitello al parmigiana. A veal cutlet was pounded thin, breaded, and pan-fried before being topped with a pomodoro sauce and a healthy helping of mozzarella cheese. It came with a side of spaghetti to make this dish just as large as the other entrees. Personally, I am a huge fan of "meat parmesan" dishes, but something was off on this dish. It was definitely on the oily side, and all I could taste was breading. It was tender, but that is expected after the cutlet was pounded thin.
My favorite cocktail is the sazerac. Unfortunately, many bars in Chicago are surprisingly unsure what is in it. Luckily, the bartender at Volare knew, even though the waitress didnt. The drink is made with a rye whiskey, a swirl of absinthe, simple syrup, bitters, and a lemon peel. It was made well, maybe a little overpowering on the absinthe, but it was still tasty.
- Valet parking is very reasonable at $10.
- The dishes are huge. Sharing a pasta dish is definitely a possibility. I was full with more than half of mine remaining.
- Their specialty is their gnocchi entree. I forgot to take a picture, but the gnocchi is great. Huge portion, nice potato flavor, great consistency.
- Don't forget to make reservations here. It was packed even on a Thursday night.
|Don't eat too much of this bread. It comes out warm and is hard to resist.|