Volare has been a prominent and very popular Italian restaurant in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood for 15 years. Recently they were able to acquire an adjacent property and expand. We decided we had to check it out and make sure that one of our favorite restaurants was still one of our favorite restaurants because you never know how these remodel projects will work out. We were hoping that it had not changed everything we were attracted to in the first place. Once in the door at Volare and glancing around to take in all of the new changes, what really struck me the minute we entered – there wasn’t a wait! After all it was a beautiful Saturday evening and normally one would expect a wait here because it is a very popular spot.
There was a new hostess station with hostesses waiting to help us the minute we entered the door, yep the minute we entered the restaurant. The atmosphere was still warm and friendly, but so much roomier. The bar was twice as big and open to both dining rooms, the old (which is totally refreshed) and the new. They have high top bar tables and seating on both sides of the bars, and the dining rooms are now open to the kitchen so diners may view the chefs in action. We were swiftly seated in the newly added second dining room. Jackie, our waitress was very well versed on the menu selections and offered us valuable info on everything from the wines to every ingredient and the degree of spiciness as if she created it herself. She had such a great sense of humor and kept us laughing throughout our wonderful dinner. The wait staff was very efficient and worked swiftly and quietly as a great team throughout our evening.
Getting back to the new decor, both rooms are warm and charming as before but with new “everything” and Matt Lamb paintings gracing the walls. All of the extra seating was a big plus because Volare was and still is a popular dining spot and people had become accustomed to wait for their excellent Italian food. That was a custom we can do without.
The wine list was very adequate but with Jackie’s help we chose one of Volare’s house wines, Due Torri Cabernet Sauvignon. She was right – we could not go wrong with that wine. It was perfect with everything we ordered. Tasty breads, parmesan cheese and oil was thankfully served minutes after being seated. The menu has so many new additions with small plate options and Neapolitan style pizza to name only a few. Having never been offered before, Pizza is a fun new option now at Volare. We decided to try Volare’s signature salad of the sea, Insalata di Mare. It was a huge plate of Octopus, Calamari, Conch, Shrimp all marinated with garlic, lemon, olive oil and parsley. We prefer grilled calamari and asked Jackie if we could order the salad grilled, not fried. She said of course that we had that option and were we glad we did. It was heavenly! We both decided to order soup, Bob the Minestrone and I ordered their special of the evening, Lobster Bisque. Bob stated that it was the best Minestrone he has ever had and I loved the Lobster Bisque. These were not small bowls of soup, I could have actually stopped eating then, but the menu had so many interesting new and old options – we agreed to keep on going.
Meanwhile the restaurant was buzzing, and watching the chefs and their staff efficiently and creatively prepare and whip out their Italian dishes was a new found fun activity as we enjoyed our wine between courses.
I ordered the Veal Parmigiana – pan-fried veal chop, tomato sauce, Mozzarella, and a side of penne. Bob ordered Costoline d’Angello (grilled Colorado lamb chops, rosemary red wine sauce, seasonal vegetables and chef’s potatoes. Mine was the biggest piece of Veal Parmigiana I have ever seen and Bob’s lamb chops were so tender and juicy.
Thinking why stop there, but almost too full to go on, we decided on their homemade ice cream that was served with cookies. Isn’t it said that there is always room for ice cream? They do have many new desserts on their menu; we will just have to go back to sample them next time.
Our findings: Volare has changed, but oh for the better! Two quotes that reflect that thinking are:
Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed. ~Irene Peter
Change always comes bearing gifts. ~Price Pritchett
All photos courtsey of Cindy Kurman, Kurman Photography