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WIAW: A Mystical Pizza: Volare Chicago

Alex and I finally had a date night! Woooooohooooo! Details in a sec.

And don’t get me started on the CRAYCRAY weather. One minute it was whiteout conditions, 30 mins later it was getting sunny. PICK ONE.

whiteout

Yesterday I was quite productive, if I do say so myself. After a delicious quick-TVP-sloppy-joe lunch, I got to work on a few projects that I have been putting off for months: The Great Wedding Album and prints for the fam.

Xmas cards got addressed, then it was off to our grocery store, which is actually about to close. I got $75 of groceries for $32. CHYEAH. Glooorrry. Produce was pretty much untouched, as it was pretty much the only things not on sale. Whatever, I’m getting it anyway. It did mean that I had to go to a second store, though, but I happened to run into a certain doctor that I know that accompanied me to Trader Joe’s 😀

And that brings us to dinnnnner. And my contribution to WIAW!

Merci to Jenn!

Merci to Jenn!

The highlight of yesterday’s eats (beyond the last 1/3 of the bag of BoomChickaPop that I hosed. 1 bag, 3 days, DONE) was Alex’s and my trip to Volare for dinner.

Volare Ristorante Italiano

We got lucky–I hurried Alex out of the apartment because I had read a tip that Volare gets very busy and rezzo’s are very much suggested. But I didn’t know when Alex would be done with the gym, so we were going to have to risk it. I hurried him into the shower and out of the house (we lol’ed and both wore our Dansko’s. Totally unrelated but it made us laugh because he NEVER wears his but we decided to be dorks.).

The short and short of it is that we arrived at the perfect time: they quickly made a 4 top into a 2, and we were seated by the most magically attired, spritely, super handsome young Italian man ever in my dream of a grey silk suit jacket (showed off his very trim waist). I say this because it was just so Italian, and I loved it in a very nostalgic way. Please pardon the quick pics taken as we were walking to our table.

volare1

The room was Chicago-style intimate: Tables were right next to each other, there was a lot of noise, tight fits for the waiters/bussers/food runners, and great people watching. But I will say that the acoustics of the room were optimal–we were RIGHT in the middle of the action, with far larger tables all around us, and I never had a problem hearing Alex. Which is saying quite a bit, a) because I don’t have the greatest hearing and b) because hearing in my left ear is a bit muffled at the time. Room acoustics are big for me as I work in a restaurant with BAD acoustics that often leave people shouting.

volare2

Bread and water were brought immediately, even before menus. Alex when into EAT ALL THE FOODS mode, so some of these pics are going to be rather rushed.

The foccacia was so-so. The outer crust was nice and moist (sorry), with a great tomato sauce on some of it, and the interior of it was nice and fluffy, but the texture was a bit dry. Not the best, not the worst. The loaf of bread was far superior: traditional Italian table bread that smelled of yeast and LLLLOVVVE, had the most delightfully crusty outer, pillowy interior, and was FRESH from the oven.  The EVOO was decent, but not the most flavorful, thus the S&P.

The foccacia was so-so. The outer crust was nice and moist (sorry), with a great tomato sauce on some of it, and the interior of it was nice and fluffy, but the texture was a bit dry. Not the best, not the worst. The loaf of bread was far superior: traditional Italian table bread that smelled of yeast and LLLLOVVVE, had the most delightfully crusty outer, pillowy interior, and was FRESH from the oven. The EVOO was decent, but not the most flavorful, thus the S&P.

We shared a glass of Negroamaro Primativo Blend (Negroamaro is the Italian pinot noir grape, and one of my absolute and utter favorites. Alex and I are partial to blends when we share, as our palettes pick up different aspects of the wines, and so every body ends up happy.) The wine was absolutely DELICIOUS. I might go back to Volare to look up the exact name and year of it, actually.

I will say, very quickly, that while the reviews of Volare repeatedly talked about the exemplary service, I was a bit underwhelmed.  Management was fabulous, and touched all the tables at least once during their meal. Our waiter seemed a bit nonplussed at having to take our table, especially when it was aparent that we wouldn’t be chugging 3 bottles of wine (also, there were plenty of size options, so you could get carafes, etc) and multiple other things. He wasn’t rude or anything, just not at all engaged. Which is fine, our experience didn’t suffer as I had done research and also I knew what to look for myself. Just a thought.  The bussers, however, were ADORABLE, and they wished us happy holidays, our water was never near empty, and service was quick and absolutely professional.

volare5edited

Alex’s balls in sauce on a plate. LOLZ. Sorry about the color balance, there wasn’t much I could do. Alex had relaunched into EAT ALL THE FOODS mode when our mains came, and I could barely snap this before he took it away!

The meat-a-balls. Get them. $4 for 2 lacrosse-sized spheres of awesome in a sweet San Marzano tomato sauce that instantly took me back to the classic ristorante that my family practically lived at during my childhood. Very, very little, if any, filler, perfectly simmered, and well seasoned. But, oh, that sauce. I stole the plate from Alex and wiped that sucker CLEAN with my pizza crust.

volare6edited

Alex’s Gnocchi alla Vodka. Ricotta-gnocchi in the house sauce.

So I have a confession. I don’t like gnocchi. Never have, really. I can appreciate them, if they are good, but it’s not my thing. Mostly because it’s all one texture, and I’m a big-time texture person, and I crave crunch and soft in my bites.

If I had started with these gnocchi, I might have gone a different path in my childhood and become a gnocchi afficianado. These were amazing. The lightest, pillowiest texture in a mild, but flavorful sauce (I actually would have liked a bit more flavor in the sauce, but it was still great).  THIS IS HOW GNOCCHI IS SUPPOSED TO TASTE. Alex was actually really confused, like “Wow, this is totally different than any gnocchi I’ve had before.” “Babe, that is how gnocchi is supposed to be.” “Really?” “Yes. Gnocchi should be pillowy and light, not bean-bag-like.” “Huh.” Volare’s gnocchi are to gnocchi as Farmhouse’s cheese curds are to cheese curds. My current standard of measure for the dish.

But let’s talk about me, k?

 

A few things to know about me and Italian food: I absolutely love Italian, but I’m not a big pasta person. I was as a kid, and I like it from time to time, but I almost never order pasta unless I make it myself, and even the pasta itself is basically a topping, and all the other stuff is the main focus. I would, however, eat red sauce with a spoon, and have done so many a time. Also, as I have mentioned before, I can’t do a lot of olive oil, cheese, and butter and I also can’t really do beans, so Italian food can be very difficult for me to navigate.

That being said, I am an ABSOLUTE SUCKER for a few things: (just looking at things that I can have, fyi)

Montapulciano d’Abruzzo, Chianti, Negroamaro; Grilled Callimari or Octopus; Balsamic vinegar; Tomato sauce (esp. if sweet or arrabiata)

But especially the following: fresh artichokes, fennel, garden tomatoes, peppers, pepperocini BUT NOT IN OIL

Fresh Basil

Prosciutto di Parma

Neopolitan or Roma style, thin-crust pizza.

Ermigerd

Ermigerd

I got a small house salad to start, and the Pizza Volare. I was not anticipating eating 3/4ths of it (Alex took a piece, and we ended up packing up the last and then actually giving it to a homeless person for some holiday cheer). But let me tell you, I couldn’t stop.

Pizza Volare: house-made daily, Naples-style, pizza oven dough, fresh artichokes, Prosciutto di Parma, fresh tomatoes, fresh house ricotta. Fresh basil.

volare4edited

HOLY. SH*T.

I have found my happy place.

The crust was, for me, perfect. The prosciutto was beautiful. There was not much added oil (I asked for them not to add any, and I think that there was a little finishing oil, but not enough to worry me), there was actually no sauce–the moisture was given to the pizza from a little olive oil and the ricotta., and the oven-baking made the tomatoes burst in your mouth (;)). The artichokes, gave just the right texture, and grounded the other favors. And well, fresh basil makes everything better.

I ate the first piece like a normal person (Ie, taking proper bites), and then got my Susie on, and ate the rest of if bit by delicious bit. I gave Alex a lot of the ricotta (which was exquisite, btw), but other than that, nothing was left (that piece that we packed? yeah it was just crust and ricotta. NO SHAME). By the end, I s&p’s the crust (which made it more magical, actually), and wipe the sauce out of the meatball plate.

This post has gotten out of control, so I’m going to clam up a bit.

We finished with a decaf americano, and it was perfect. We were full to the brim (Alex said repeatedly that he hate his life, the liar). And life was awesome. After picking up the pics I had ordered at Walgreens, we went home, Alex did some research and I stuffed envelopes, and then I had some cherry chocolate chip frozen yogurt (that I found at the closing grocery store, score!), and we both fell asleep watching Chopped.

Date Night, Success. Obviously, we had a great night at Volare, would absolutely recommend it, and will certainly return.

Talk to me, Goose:

Do you go for small plates composed entrees, single, or multiple courses when you go to Italian places?

Pizza or pasta? Anyone else a pizza dissector like me?

I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I should do our wedding album–should I go with a custom-created book, or should I just order prints and then put in a scrapbook? Thoughts?

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