Volare blends Old World charm with sumptuous Sicilian dishes
by Marsha Kay Seff
Apr 18, 2012 | 3494 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anna Sanfilippo, left, owner of Volare Italian Dining in Loma Portal, serves up Old World flavor with daughter, Antonella. Sanfilippo’s husband, son, sister, nephew and niece also work at the restaurant. Other staff have worked there for at least a decade.  Photo by Marsha Kay Seff I The Beacon
Anna Sanfilippo, left, owner of Volare Italian Dining in Loma Portal, serves up Old World flavor with daughter, Antonella. Sanfilippo’s husband, son, sister, nephew and niece also work at the restaurant. Other staff have worked there for at least a decade. Photo by Marsha Kay Seff I The Beacon
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The cinder-block-and-stucco exterior is as unassuming as the interior is warm and inviting. Eating at the landmark Volare Italian Dining in Loma Portal is, as they say, “like visiting family in Sicily.”

And that’s where the generations-old simple, traditional recipes come from, according to owner Anna Sanfilippo, a Sicilian who treats all new and time-treasured customers as family.

Her brother opened the restaurant on Barnett Avenue between Midway Drive and Jessup Lane in 1978. Sanfilippo, who followed her family to the U.S. and became a permanent resident in 1973, took the reins in 1999. She still manages the place, putting in six days a week.

A sign above the kitchen entrance claims, “Broken English Spoken Here,” and Anna wears her Old-World accent with honor.

A true family affair, her daughter and a son work there, along with Anna’s sister, nephew and niece. Sanfilippo’s husband helps with the paperwork. The rest of the staff has become family because the servers have worked there for at least a decade.

Sanfilippo’s daughter, Antonella, who has a degree in political science, used to do her homework at one of the tables. She joined the staff at 13.

Now, a consultant for the Navy, Antonella still hostesses and waits on tables two nights a week; the restaurant is just across the street from her day job. She enjoys the physical work after sitting at a computer all day.

As for working with her mom, Antonella said their only disagreements have been over policy.

“I like to stick with the rules and my mother tends to break them,” she said.

Though the home-style cooking brings the customers back — fresh ingredients include a 25-pound wheel of Romano cheese cut and grated on the premises —the prices and generous portions don’t hurt.

Among Anna’s favorite are the pastas — “In Sicily, we eat pasta every day” — and the chicken cacciatore. Meat lasagna is on the menu for $6.95 and the chicken for $11.95. Pizzas are a customer favorite, with a whopping 28-inch, one-topping pie for $21. Anna said she hasn’t raised prices more than 75 cents since she’s been running the place.

“You can pay for atmosphere at the fancy restaurants, but you are not going to get the feeling of home,” added Antonella.

Though the brisk business strains the limited space, Anna has never set her sights on larger digs. She points out that Volare is centrally located. And with just 14 tables, she said, it’s small enough to manage.

“I don’t want to go big,” Anna said. “That’s a lot of work.”

Through the years, Anna said she has done everything from cooking to washing the dishes. She has no plans to retire.

“I’m not tired,” Anna said. “The restaurant keeps me busy. I’m successful and happy and nice people work for me.”

She said she knows what most of her regulars will order even before they sit down.

Though many original customers are gone, Volare has a new crop of younger patrons, Anna said. Locals might drive by for years before finally stopping, she said.

“And many of them end up coming back,” Anna said.

• Volare Italian Dining

3528 Barnett Ave. (between Midway Drive & Jessop Lane), (619) 224-0030

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