Volare Italian Ristorante brings Kentucky flair to traditional Italian fare
By Laura Ross
Photos by Kathryn Harrington
“It has been a crazy year, and we’ve done pretty well, all things considered,” mused Managing Partner and Executive Chef Joshua Moore of Volare Italian Ristorante. He is happy to see the return of diners to his legendary, award-winning restaurant, which has held pride of place on Frankfort Avenue since 2004.
Consistently named “Best Italian Restaurant” in Louisville media, Volare is locally owned and features a seasonally changing menu of Italian specialties crafted with locally sourced farm-fresh ingredients, many from Moore’s Spencer County farm.
The tumultuous 2020 put a strain on all restaurants, but Volare persevered. “We had to get creative,” said Moore, “We had to learn a new way of doing business, and switched gears quickly, to focus on delivery and to-go orders, which we really didn’t do before. We had amazing support from our loyal customers, and everyone is coming back for dine-in now.”
Guests are anxious to enjoy Volare’s signature pastas and steaks and traditional events like the special Heirloom Tomato Dinner event, featuring the bounty from Moore’s farm. “People were so excited to come to the dinner, and we sold out for three nights. It’s one of my favorite times of the year,” said Moore.
As he moves towards the autumn, Moore contemplates his menu shift for the cooler months. Fall vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower and Swiss chard lettuce will start appearing soon, along with a new, heavier pasta dish or two. “Our farm sets us apart,” explained Moore. “We start planting in March and are harvesting through early December. We love bringing stuff from the farm and we see the fall crop begin arriving around the end of August. It lets us shift our menu, do creative specials and add great touches.”
Bourbon adds a special touch to some of Volare’s inspired dishes. While it’s not what you usually think of in an Italian dish, the award-winning Chef Moore enjoys tweaking recipes and building new tastes that knock it out of the park for his diners.
Is it a stretch to add bourbon flavors? “Maybe,” Moore chuckled. “It’s a fun mix of Italy and Kentucky. Being in Kentucky gives us the perfect reason to incorporate bourbon into the dishes. When people travel, they appreciate that. They experience a great Italian restaurant with a Frutti di Mare pasta, but they also can enjoy a braised short rib with Jim Beam bourbon. The cuisine is so fun to work with.”
Moore suggests pairing his bourbon-inspired dishes with bourbon cocktails like the Volare Manhattan and the Brooklyn, crafted by Volare Bar Manager and Assistant General Manager Emily Ryan and her team. All elements combined, Volare provides a fine dining experience that is as memorable as it is delicious.
Moore knows what works, though, and keeps long-time favorites on the menu too. A large selection of pastas, including the popular Capellini di Sorrento, headline the menu, along with savory dishes including the sought-after Certified Angus Beef steaks. Volare’s famous “Fish Friday” selections have developed a following of their own, featuring a viral social media campaign that showcases images of Chef Moore holding the selected fish as it arrives fresh – and often larger than life – followed shortly after by the resulting culinary masterpiece as it is served.
“I am often asked about my go-to dish, and I have to say it’s the chicken or veal saltimbocca,” said Moore. “I love everything about it, and it has the best flavor.”
Moore has earned his own celebrity, cooking at the James Beard House in New York City, and taking home top honors as a “Chopped” champion on the Food Network, but he is happy to call Louisville home. The roster of guests he has prepared memorable meals for includes Muhammad Ali, Prince Albert of Monaco, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and more, but he loves his daily guests the most, he said. “People are excited to be out and I’m excited to see them. Volare is my second child. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Volare’s team, led by Moore and his long-time partner and general manager, Jonathan Tarullo, complement each other. “We have such an amazing staff, and it’s one of those things, the passion and love I have for the food, Jonathan has for the front-of-the-house customer experience and the dining room. Together, we create the Volare experience,” explained Moore. “It’s about a lot more than just the food. It starts at the door with Jonathan greeting people and making sure they have a great experience. The restaurant is beautiful, and it’s fun. You feel like you’ve had a great night out. We want you to feel like our friends and family.”
Volare Italian Ristorante
2300 Frankfort Ave.
Louisville, KY 40206