VOLARIOS/CAFFÉ GIACONDO                                                                                                          


A friend and I made an impromptu stop in a little Italian restaurant back when I lived in California.  We were enjoying a cocktail at the bar when we detected a “buzz” amongst the staff.  Suddenly, the front door burst open and in walked Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior and Dean Martin!  They were personable, friendly, and stopped at the bar. We were completely star-struck and managed to squeak out a “hello”.  As the celebrities ordered cocktails, the sound system in the bar began crooning Ave Maria.  Everyone looked at each other, Mr. Sinatra broke into song and then we all joined him. It certainly raised the bar for me and my expectations of an Italian restaurant.

Volarios_RackOfColoradoLambI recently had the opportunity to enjoy brunch and dinner at Volario’s, the Italian restaurant connected with Vasquez Creek Inn in downtown Winter Park.  I was introduced to Chef Turner Fountain, an amazing talent that’s a whole other story.  Chef Turner speaks passionately about his food and stresses fresh, quality ingredients. He describes his menu as “high quality yet affordable and innovative”. A review of the menu indicated recognizable and comforting dishes such as Lasagna, Gnocchi and Spaghetti. But do not underestimate that these dishes are your usual culinary experience. For example, the Spaghetti is served with a 12-ounce meatball on homemade pasta with San Marzano tomato, mozzarella and parmegianino. . . and only $15. All the pasta is made by hand daily and there is every attention to detail with quite a bit of “amore” in all that is served. I thoroughly enjoyed the Vongole, which was full of succulent Manilla clams and prepared with olive oil, garlic, parsley and pepper flakes over their house made linguini. The food really is the celebrity here.

On my way out of the restaurant, I was lucky enough to bump into a couple who are second homeowners in the area and dine at Volario’s multiple times a week.  Shirl Schafer, MD and Paul Lit describe their dining experience as, “Topnotch with attention to detail and a staff that aims to please.  European, old-world quality”.

Caffe' Giacondo SoupWith these accolades, you’re probably thinking “pricey”.  That is not the case, brunch entrées run $12-$16, happy hour plates range from $5-$7 and dinner entrées range from $15 to $38.  You can even bring the kids, as there is a wonderful Menu di Bambino offering kids an entrée, bread, salad and dessert at a range of $5 to $8. And for those that do take advantage of Volario’s Saturday and Sunday brunches, they can join the “Brunch Punch Club” where upon check-out diners receive a club punch card that entitles them to a free dinner entrée at Volario’s after five brunch visits.

As I headed for brunch the next morning, the weather was classic Grand County.  A blue bird sky and fresh morning air made me want to dine outside.  The patio is inviting and situated beautifully by Vasquez Creek.  Pets are welcome and there is a grassy, shaded area at the fence line for them to hang out.  There is also a bit of a grassy area just behind the large fireplace where kids can run and play.

Caffe' Giacondo SignWhile brunch was being prepared, I popped into Caffé Giocondo. This is the casual Italian-style caffé adjacent to Volario’s that is a warm and welcoming place to grab a hand-crafted coffee or breakfast sandwich to start the day.  Whether you enjoy your meal at one of the cozy tables or take it to go, there’s something for everyone. Menu items include tasty treats like Breakfast Carbonara, a variety of Strombolis, Frittata and Acai Bowl. Barista Candace Barret describes Caffé Giocondo as “Very consistent, vibrant and casual”.  She went on to tell me that “Giocondo is a real person who was befriended by the caffé’s owners while visiting Italy.  Giocondo comes to visit his namesake twice a year and has come to really enjoy the Grand County lifestyle”.

I completed my tour of these two dining gems and sat down to indulge in the amazing brunch. As I picked up my fork to dive into some of the most fragrant French Toast I’ve ever encountered, I realized the background music was Frank Sinatra.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Wed., Thurs., Sun. 5pm – 9pm
Fri. – Sat., 5pm – 10pm
Phone: (970) 722-1199                                              
Website: www.volarioswinterpark.com

Caffé Giocondo:
Daily 7am – 3pm
Phone: (970) 726-7005
Website: www.caffegiocondo.com