Originally published on Food and Fond Memories on April 26, 2011 by sandyaxelrod 0 Comments (Edit)
I can state without hesitation that Chef Vola’s is my all time favorite Italian restaurant anywhere. For all of our lives both Steve and I spent our summers at the Jersey shore in Atlantic City with our respective families and when Steve and I got married in 1969 we continued this tradition until we moved to South Florida in 1982. Way back then there wasn’t a huge fine dining scene in Atlantic City. That pretty much arrived with the Casinos. Our favorite places to eat at the time were Lou’s for corned beef sandwiches with coleslaw and Russian dressing or their famous Hot Fudge Sundaes; Tony’s Baltimore Grill for pepperoni pizza; White House Sub Shop for the very best hoagies and cheese steaks in the world (more about that tomorrow for W); and Chef Vola’s. In those days Chef Vola’s was like a speakeasy, they didn’t advertise, had no business cards or matchbooks and no published phone number. You had to know the number or have a friend who did in order to call and get a reservation for dinner. It was the best kept secret in Atlantic City and fortunately for us we knew the password! We dined there at least once a summer to feast on their special salad with cannelli beans, green beans, cubes of provolone and salami; a garlic crusted rack of lamb, veal or seafood dish, pasta with red gravy and the most amazing Chocolate Chambord pie you ever tasted. To this day you still have to bring your own wine or spirits. The restaurant opened in 1921 run by the Vola family in the basement of a house on Albion Avenue and legend has it that Frank Sinatra said he wanted to be buried with one of Chef Vola’s Banana Cream Pies. The restaurant was purchased by the Esposito family Louise and Michael and their sons Michael Jr. and Louis in 1982 they made a seamless transition continuing the tradition of great Italian food. We still try to go there once a year when we travel to New Jersey to visit Steve’s brother and his family and our friend Sheri and her family. After so many years of dining there we are treated like family and welcomed with open arms. I would have to say that one of my fondest memories of Chef Vola’s was a night in 2006 when we were joined by our son Brian and daughter-in-law Eve. We were just served our salads when all of a sudden Eve grabbed my arm and said “Mom, Bobby Flay is at the next table!” I think my heart skipped a beat when he smiled in my direction. A couple of years later when I had an opportunity to meet him I told Bobby that we had had dinner together — at separate tables at Chef Vola’s. He laughed and then went on to talk to me about how delicious and abundant the food was. I was so pleased to read an email about Chef Vola’s being up for a James Beard Foundation Award this year as an American Classic. I look forward to dining there again in the very near future so I can congratulate them on this prestigious honor.