At both lunch and dinner, dishes listed on the menu weren't available - but we didn't find out until after we'd ordered them. The unpleasantly pungent caper-Dijon sauce that topped my lunchtime grilled tuna ($10) ought to be retired immediately. Lunch took far longer than it should have, if the restaurant hopes to attract a business crowd. And - how can I put this delicately? - someone in the kitchen needs a hairnet, judging by what turned up in my green beans at lunch.
Ristorante Volare is the newest enterprise of the Cancelliere family, which owns the casual, convivial Ristorante Longano at 9th and Catharine streets. Volare's more upscale, in keeping with its neighborhood, and so are its prices. Main course pastas range up to $16.50; several entrees top the $21 mark. Although those prices aren't new to Manayunk - and although Volare's portions are size XXXL - the quality doesn't yet measure up to the tab.
On the bright side, the complimentary minestrone served at lunch was the best I've had this year, crammed with chickpeas, zucchini, carrots, potato and peas. The stracciatelle soup (escarole and egg in chicken stock) included with our dinners was likewise delicious. A server will ask if you want some freshly grated cheese on top of your soups. Say yes.
At lunch and dinner, a small dish of very good roasted zucchini, peppers and eggplant arrives with the bread basket, which made me wonder why there's a roasted pepper, goat cheese and eggplant appetizer on the lunch menu for $9. The bruschetta ($5.50), toasted Italian bread topped with onion, tomato, basil and olive oil, wasn't worth the long, long wait for it at lunch. The Caesar salad ($5) I had at dinner was weighed down by a very eggy opaque dressing.
If red sauces aren't to your liking, Penne Don Giovanni ($7 as a dinner appetizer, or $9 at lunch) is a decadent choice, combining quill pasta with asparagus tips, peas, mushrooms, broccolirabe and Romano cheese in a cream sauce. If red sauces are to your liking, you will find them in abundance. The Chicken parmigiano ($15.50) arrives practically floating in a thick sea of red. Tortellini Alborguessi ($14.50), stuffed with veal and sun-dried tomatoes, calls for a subtler sauce than the chunky tomato one with two cheeses that hid the flavors of the filling. Red sauce comes on the ziti offered as a side dish option at dinner, and on the green beans served with entrees if you don't choose the pasta. (Which means that if you order the heavily sauced chicken parm, you'll get ziti with red sauce - or green beans with red sauce - alongside.)
Risotto a la Genovese ($16.50) incorporated bits of spiny lobster tail, squid, peas and mussels in saffroned rice surrounded by broth. It's not risotto if the rice grains are distinct and separate, as these were, instead of creamy-textured.
The tender Veal Francaise ($16.50), an old favorite downtown, was topped with a scattering of wild mushrooms and had cooled almost to room temperature en route to the table.
Desserts ($4.50) are presented on a tray for the choosing. We were pleased with the carrot cake and the cheesecake; the cannoli had an overly sweet, overly cinnamon filling.
Until the liquor license arrives, a complimentary glass of white or red wine is served to patrons who don't bring their own bottle. Longano patrons used to being serenaded by Jerry Vale recordings will be pleased to hear that Vale is the house recording artist at Ristorante Volare as well.
RISTORANTE VOLARE * 1/2 $$$
4421 Main St., 215-483-9797.
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 'til 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3-10 p.m. Sunday.
Liquor: BYOB until the liquor license arrives.
Accessibility: Barrier-free first floor.
Credit: Major cards.
Atmosphere: Fashionably modern rooms; a mix of old and new on the menu.