A Taste of Italy 3

Volare Brings Neapolitan Pizza and More to Campus Corner

A new gem has been set in the heart of Norman’s historic Campus Corner, and it’s likely to shine on for years to come.

That gem is Volare, a restaurant and bar tucked into the former site of Toto’s. But you won’t find any signs of the old pizzeria; co-owners Anthony Compagni and Shelly Wilson had the old building razed to the ground in order to allow their new concept, like the legendary Phoenix, to rise from the ashes.

Upon walking into the new restaurant at 315 White St., one enters a main dining area featuring a huge bar featuring a beautiful modern-design mirror modeled after one discovered by his partner in France. Overhanging the mirror is a cast-zinc feature–imported from France–that presents a look of understated elegance. The stools are a mix of metal and wood salvaged from a Prohibition-era train. The result is a pleasing mixture of old and new.

Toward the back of the room is a striking, handmade, 7,500-pound, oak-fired Marra Forni brick oven, imported from Naples, Italy, which can burn to up to 900 degrees F., allowing pizzas to be baked in a mere 90 seconds.

The entire restaurant, including the first floor, mezzanine overlooking the bar, second- and third-floor office spaces, and fourth-floor rooftop bar (the second and third floors house offices), are Americans with Disability-compliant, from the elevators to the restrooms and seating. The small but well-appointed rooftop bar offers a superb view of Campus Corner and beyond and plenty of comfortable seating, as well as heaters for cold weather, fans and misters for warmer days.

When looking to open Volare, Compagni said, their goal was to “bring quality craft food at a Campus Corner Price.” But while the prices are surprisingly modest, with appetizers falling in the $5 to $9 range and the highest-prices entrée price topping out at $13 for a supreme pizza, customers will appreciate the fact that all the menu items are made from scratch, using the highest-quality ingredients available.

Compagni said they follow centuries-old guidelines and techniques in making their Neapolitan pizza, which is made with San Marzano tomatoes and Mozzarella Campana, using dough made daily with non-GMO Caputo “00” flour, water, natural yeast and sea salt. To obtain the appropriate dough texture, the kitchen features a special dough mixer from Italy that mimics hand mixing.

My sister Lori Hanna and our photographer Linda Irie joined me in tasting a selection of some of the restaurant’s appetizers and entrees, including the Margherita pizza, made with red sauce, house-made mozzarella, parmigiana, reggiano, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh sweet basil. Very tasty! I plan to go back again soon to sample more of their expansive list of pizzas, which includes some with tantalizing names like Truffle Shuffle and Pearswasion (made with fontina, gorgonzola, fresh pear, caramelized fennel, sage and walnuts).

We also sampled several appetizers, which Compagni describes as a “fresh take on traditional bar appetizers,” including the Trio Bruschetta, consisting of crostinis, ricotta and a trio of pesto, basil and aged balsamic vinegar; Cheese Me, described as a “hand-breaded fresh house-made mozzarella, fried, with tomato sauce, parmesan and basil; and Crack Fries, fresh-cut fries with parmesano, garlic and cracked black pepper.

We also tried the Popper, their most popular appetizer, which features a generous serving of jalapeno artichoke dip, along with fire-roasted shishito peppers; Pig Skins, tasso-spiced, crispy-fried port chicharrones; and (our favorite), the Scarpetta, or “Shoe Strings,” a tasty concoction of crispy-fried zucchini sticks topped with parmesano, served with a tomato sauce.

The menu also features salads, sandwiches and pasta. Many of Volare’s dishes (including the lasagna) can be made gluten-free, and the kitchen staff can adapt many of the recipes to accommodate common food allergies. Compagni said they are preparing to expand their menu further to include soups and paninis.

Volare also boasts an extensive drink list that includes wines; beer (they maintain a rotating selection of 12 beers on tap, as selected by their customers), as well as several local and craft beers; cocktails; and shots. Volare said two of their most popular drinks are the SS 163, named after a stretch of road that runs along the stretch of the Amalfi Coast in Italy, made with Amalfi gin, limoncello, lemonade and fresh lemon juice, and the Sangria Popsicle, a frozen beverage that he compares to a swirl.

Volare opened on Oct. 1. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.

For more information, call 310.3615 or visit 
facebook.com/volarenorman/.