Every now and then I come across the very rare day when, gulp, I'm not so into the BYOB thing. The sentiment is generally matched by profound feelings of laziness and lethargy—days when I cap off a feast-of-a-lunch in Greektown with a giant triangle of baklava, have slugged through my afternoon and want a dinner that's light, bubbly and not on my shoulders. I'll admit it: I'm not so pure of BYOB heart...I love wine bars.
And after a lunch of, no joke, the world's largest piece of moussaka, I whiningly told Merle I wanted to switch gears and go the wine bar route. It's a road I don't traverse too often, generally because the memory of $130 Zinny & Steamer tags peskily refuses to delete itself from my head. I wanted the wine bar deliciousness without the price tag, and what I found was sheer bliss at Volo, 2008 W. Roscoe St.
It's been on my to-try list for ages, but it's a list that always gets longer before it gets shorter. Volo might have stayed firmly planted there, had I not taken a quick glance at the following deal maker on its website: Half-price bottles of wine on Monday.
Merle and I arrived, parked directly in front of the restaurant (the wine gods obviously pleased with our choice) and made a beeline for the backyard, an enclosed seating area with a smattering of tables, personal cedar cabanas and a 100-year-old barn. We grabbed a table, babbled about the dreamy setting (very escapist) and took in the menu, which reminded me a lot of Bin Wine Cafe's: a couple of salads, pizzas and soups, plus more sizeable entrees both enticing (stuffed pork loin) and odd (marrow).
But wine was the first order of the day, and our alfresco meal certainly called for white. The wine roster practices the same plentiful restraint as the dinner menu, with a shortlist of choices that all seem appropriate. We opted for a $26 bottle of 2005 Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, reduced to an easy-sipping $13. Light and citric, it had that Sauvignon crispness I love so much, just without the bite.
We split an $8 heirloom tomato salad, each getting a few perfect bites of no less than three varieties of tomato, layered with mozzarella and fresh basil. It seemed an appropriately weightless start, because when it came to the real-deal meal, we both instantly agreed on something that's traditionally heavier: two pizzas.
Yep, the three simple options sounded so good that we could only whittle it down to two, and figured that was an OK thing. A glass-or-so later, our pre-cut pizzas appeared, each plated in four, triangular pieces. Merle dove into the proscuitto pizza, topped with some of the thickest, meatiest slices I've ever seen. I decided to ease into things with a decidedly unfamiliar pie: the sweet pea pizza topped with onion and Parmesan.
If heaven could be a slice of pizza, this would be it. In all my years of ordering and making pizza, peas have never crossed my mind. But the thin, sauceless crust benefited from the moist, mashed layer, a sweetness topped with mellow layerings of cheese and onion. We both agreed the proscuitto was good, but we also later admitted our secret hope that the other would exclaim "Wow, I love meat! Can I have an extra piece? Would you mind taking my piece of pea?" But, alas, we each stuck with our two slices, harboring gluttonous dreams of ordering a third pizza that gave way to a more acceptable round of dessert.
One more glass of wine for me (at full price, it was almost silly to refuse a second bottle, but Merle was driving and I was teetering on the edge of just-fine) and three small slices of pound cake topped with strawberries and whipped cream. And as much as buttery cake calls my name, on this particular evening, my heart belonged to the peas.
Zinny Fandel's tales of living the (mostly) BYOB life are intended to be attempted at home and in the community, preferably at BYOB restaurants. If you know of a BYOB spot she simply must tipple at, let her know.