I know it’s weird to have a pilgrimage to a restaurant but Chef Vola is that kind of place.
This is one of those spots that we absolutely must dine at every single time we are in Atlantic City. We have been dining there for at least as long as we are married. And that is 48 years! Which really shows you just how good it is. The key here is that it is consistently good decade after decade!
Until recently it was the best kept secret. You didn’t get to eat there unless you had the number. They did not advertise or have a listing in the phone book. No match books or business cards had their info on them. So I cherished my little card with the phone number hand written on it.
The restaurant opened close to 100 years ago in 1921 in the basement of a rooming house. At the time the owner Joe Vola cooked what he wanted and that’s what you got to eat. I’m not sure exactly when current owners Louise and Michael Esposito took the reigns because the transition was seamless. The tiny hideaway is tucked out of site on a street that nobody knows about. Chef Vola’s at 111 South Albion Place is on a little street that is only one block long. And all I can really tell you is that it’s near California and Pacific Avenues.
The restaurant is intimate (tiny) so to maximize seating they have used the porch upstairs for extra tables. We prefer the inside space even if it means sitting elbow to elbow. And if you think that’s small wait till you see the kitchen. And you will see the kitchen because if you need to use the gorgeous little restroom you have to go into the kitchen to do so. And the other things you need to know is you bring your own wine and/or spirits and they only take cash.
But it is definitely the food that draws us back. And it’s the food that made a fan of Bobby Flay. On a visit to Chef Vola back in 2006 Steve and I were having dinner with Brian and Eve. (It’s our tradition to dine there together!) Suddenly Eve grabbed my arm and exclaimed “Mom, that’s Bobby Flay” seated just a table away from us. When I met him a few years later and mentioned that night he gushed about how good and abundant the food was there.
Our server gave us a run down of the entire menu and specials and then added “Vegetables for the table, broccoli rabe, fresh green beans, I also have spinach,” she says. “Our pasta – we have linguine, penne or angel hair. If you do clams, we’ll do a white sauce or red sauce. Marinara, Fra Diavolo, garlic and oil, we also do a blush. Chicken Scarpiello, veal rib chop, chicken Florentino with sun dried tomatoes. I have a chicken on the bone with Michael’s homemade veal sausage. We also have a single crab cake with three shrimp. A couple nice steak options…”
We started with our favorite antipasto salad for the four of us. This is pretty much everything but the kitchen sink dressed with a nice tangy vinaigrette. I had the Veal Chop Special with lots of mushrooms and a luscious demi. Steve had the OMG ginormous Veal Parmesan. As you can see by the photo it’s huge and every bit as delicious as it looks. And we had sides of linguine with Marinara. Each side of pasta is a meal in itself. Needless to say there were leftovers galore. Enough for another meal.
We probably might have eaten more of our entrées if it weren’t for the fact that we know how good Louise’s desserts are. For years I would order her Chocolate Chambord Pie. (I once asked for the recipe but was told it was a secret.) I was shocked when I learned that pie was no longer on the menu but Louise assured us the its replacement Frozen Limoncello Pie was even better. Louise said that she ate something like it on her last trip to Italy and couldn’t wait to come home and pay homage to favorite new taste. All I can say is this pie is so good that we took a slice back to our timeshare to enjoy with those leftovers. They even packed it on ice to keep it nice and cold. I sure hope we get to return next summer for another special evening at Chef Vola.
111 South Albion Place
Atlantic City, NJ 08401