Campus Corner Restaurant Offers Great Meeting Spaces and Expanded Menu … Parking, Too!
From its very conception, Anthony Compagni’s restaurant Volare on Norman’s historic Campus Corner was meant to soar above its competition—and it does in more ways than one.
Beginning with its five-story stature, the red brick eatery towers above every other building and business in the city’s storied five-block enclave that has long catered to University of Oklahoma students.
But the differences don’t stop there.
The eatery also was designed for quiet, fine dining and to play host to groups and meetings from large to small—both stark differences from virtually every other eating establishment on the Corner.
“Volare is not just your local campus bar,” Compagni said recently after sitting down at a table in the restaurant’s first-floor bar area.
“We’ve always wanted to be many different things: a sports bar when there are sports on; a professional building when it’s time for a private dinner or a group meeting; and a local fun hangout for the entire family at dinner time.
“Then, late at night, it’s a restaurant that turns into a bar,” he added with a smile.
Working on its third-year of operation, Volare is one of three Norman restaurants in which Compagni has an interest. He recently opened Press and Plow (a purveyor of fine wine, spirits, coffee and provisions) on Tecumseh Road lodged between I-35 and North Flood Street.
He also has an interest in the fine-dining restaurant, Benvenuti’s, on Norman’s Main Street in downtown, where he continues to serve as executive chef.
At Volare, which in Italian means, “to fly,” Compagni believes one of the restaurant’s secrets is that it is equipped to host business and group gatherings from large to small.
“It’s a little known fact, but we have the ability to host parties in the Mezzanine area. We can put at least 30 people there and 30 people in our lounge. There’s also a private room on the third floor for smaller groups quiet dining—and then there’s our rooftop bar for even larger groups.”
Audio and video capabilities are available in some rooms.
Volare recently began taking reservations for eight or more to ensure groups have all the space they need for their functions.
“In our rooms there is total privacy from the other parts of the restaurant. And, we have our rooftop which can accommodate larger gatherings,” he said, noting that Volare was the first restaurant to have a rooftop area for customers.
“We kind of started that trend here. Now, everyone wants a rooftop bar.”
Another big plus favoring Volare is that the famed Campus Corner parking struggles have been alleviated by the construction of a large pay-to-park car lot right behind the restaurant.
“You can walk in the back door if you want,” he said with a grin, “but we prefer people use the front door.”
In addition to its height and ability to host any sized group function, Compagni said Volare now offers take-out and catering.
Its menu also is growing. A number of pasta dishes were recently added and sandwiches—including calzones—and a large variety of salads will soon make appearances on a new “super menu.”
New drink promotions will be popping up regularly too, including $2 Tuesdays where special drinks will be spotlighted for—you guessed it—two bucks. The chef also is planning Wine Wednesdays, when some of the finest wine the restaurant offers will be only $4 per glass.
“There’s going to be something for everybody. It’s a lot of options,” he said of the planned “super menu.”
“I think as a restaurant evolves,” he went on to explain, “it figures out what it does well and what the people want—and we try to listen to that and give our guests exactly what they want.
“But the quality of the food has always been there and it will continue to be. It’s always been high-quality food at a great price.”
A Utah native who was trained in classic French cuisine at the famed Cordon Bleu culinary school in France, Compagni’s “real passion” is Italian food, which is the fare Volare highlights.
Before coming to Oklahoma, he was a high-end chef in several Aspen Colorado restaurants. Aspen is home to some of the best fine-dining restaurants in the country and holds an internationally famous annual wine and food festival that brings chefs and restaurateurs in from all over the world to celebrate food and drink.
But the chef seems to have found his home in Norman.
Compagni said he loves the “atmosphere” and “energy” Campus Corner brings to his establishment and every business in the area and that was why he and his partner sought to bring Volare to the eclectic shopping, restaurant and club area.
He said it has been fun for him to watch what other businesses coming in are doing and how things are beginning to change.
“The atmosphere and the energy Volare and other businesses are bringing to the Campus Corner are great,” he said. “It’s amazing. It’s fun to watch what everybody else is doing.”