It was the typical American Dream. Two brothers from Sicily — Alfio and Onofrio Sanfilippo — arrived in San Diego in 1969, and then in 1978, they finally made their dream come true. The brothers opened Volare Restaurant on Barnett Avenue and worked together (with other family members) for 20 years to establish it as one of the best in the area for authentic Italian cuisine.
But after two decades, Alfio and Onofrio were missing their mother country. They decided to move back to Sicily in 1997. That’s when their sister, Anna Sanfilippo, took over. And since then, other family members and long-term employees continue to keep Volare going as a successful and sustainable family-owned-and-operated business.
Anna’s daughter, Antonella Pascucci, works at Volare now. “The restaurant hasn’t changed much at all throughout the years,” she told Point Loma-OB Monthly. “We’ve added a few new dishes, but otherwise, it’s like walking into a time machine. One reason why our customers love us is because they feel like they’re eating at an Italian grandma’s house. It’s casual, no frills, excellent food and family history.”
Pascucci said Volare’s customers come from all walks of life. “Most are regulars who have been dining with us for 20-plus years. Now, with the increase of social media, we see a younger crowd, as well. It’s the perfect place to bring the family.”
So what’s on the menu?
Lots of Old World homemade Italian classics, like Lasagna, Eggplant Parmigiana, Chicken Parmigiana and Veal Parmigiana. There’s Fettuccine Alfredo and Spinach Ravioli. Volare also offers seafood dishes including Linguine Pescatore, Cioppino, and Grilled Shrimp — all served with a soup or salad, pasta and garlic bread. Chicken Piccata is another popular dish, as is the Pork Tenderloin Milanese and a variety of pizzas.
Pascucci said the restaurant stands out because the family stays true to who they are. “We don’t pretend to be something we’re not,” she explained. “With so many restaurants modernizing themselves, we stay Old School. We serve classic Italian dishes — large portions at an affordable price. It’s rare to find that nowadays. We have our quirks, but that’s what makes us unique.”
Interestingly enough, when Volare first opened in the late 1970s, the old Naval Training Center was still operating where Liberty Station is now. Volare used to have a very steady delivery business due to military members ordering lots of dishes to be sent to the Center. Now, Volare has become more of a dine-in restaurant since so many families have moved into the area.
“Our secret to success is keeping to tradition,” Pascucci proclaimed. “Consistency is key. You know when you come in, the food will taste the same way it did 40 years ago. Friendly service — and making sure our customers are happy and full when they leave — is what we’re all about. Word-of-mouth has continued to be our best advertising.”
And Pascucci added: “Don’t let the aesthetics deter you. The best restaurants are the hole-in-the-wall places. We take our time making each entree as it’s ordered, so if time is an issue, let the server know. Otherwise, relax, drink some wine and enjoy being a part of history!”
—Volare Restaurant, 3528 Barnett Ave., is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; to 10 p.m. Friday; 4-10 p.m. Saturday and 4-9 p.m. Sunday. No reservations. No delivery, but you can order take-out. There’s no WiFi, no TVs, but there is a private lot for parking. (619) 224-0030. volare.cafes-world.com