One of Chicago’s best and most beloved Italian restaurants
Dining at Volare feels — and tastes — like a true Italian restaurant experience. The medium-sized spot in Chicago is slightly hidden off (and slightly below) Michigan Avenue on Grand, and it is consistently packed. Locals love this place, couples come for a romantic dinner and families fill round tables. Expect a consistent din and having to cozy up to your neighbors, which in theory could be frustrating, but at Volare actually enhances the experience.
Volare was opened in 1997, but it is made to look older, almost more worn in, especially from the outside. The one-sided menu boasts a variety of appetizers and entrees, but is in no way overwhelming, as sometimes happens with Italian restaurants. A dish of homemade bread arrives at the table while you’re perusing the menu. Be sure to dip it in olive oil and parmesan cheese — I was amazed at how sharp, yet almost smooth, the parmesan tasted. This isn’t anything you can buy off the shelf at Jewel.
As for appetizers, the Rotolini di Melanzane (Baked rolled eggplant stuffed with ricotta cheese served with pomodoro sauce) is superb. The eggplant is thinly sliced, and the pomodoro sauce and ricotta noticeably fresh. Given its basic description and ingredients, it is an appetizer you might underestimate when reading the menu. In fact, that’s the case with many of Volare’s dishes; they might sound simple, but Volare executes them well. Very well. It’s an “I’ve had this before but it’s never tasted like it does now” experience.
My other urging is to pay attention to the specials the waiter shares with you. The sausage ravioli in tomato cream sauce entree was the best dish at our table, with the sausage finely ground and mixed with the ricotta cheese to create a flavorful, creamy filling homogeneous in texture. For a lighter option, try the Pesce di Lago, broiled whitefish with paprika, capers, lemon white wine sauce. The Pollo alla Cacciatora (chicken cacciatore), which comes either on the bone or boneless, is a great chicken alternative; light (it’s braised in red wine) and peppery — almost spicy — with flavorful amounts of vegetables: wild mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives and red and green peppers.
Most of the portion sizes are reasonable, but as to expected at an Italian restaurant, a little on the large size (with the exception of the chicken cacciatore which is huge). You’ll be going home with a doggy bag regardless, and if you’re smart, you’ll pack more of your meal away to save room for dessert.
–Karina for TKGO City Guides201 E. Grand St. (312) 410-9900, with another location in Oak Brook.
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