Some might call it the perfect pairing. Volare, a longtime favorite for Italian home cooking, and the historic Olmos Pharmacy, shuttered since 2017, are coming together to open in late February as Volare’s second location.
“If it was another location, I probably would not be doing this, but the building sold me,” said Pilar Sorgente De La Vega, who with her husband, Antonio, owns the Italian restaurant Volare in Alamo Heights.
The couple had been thinking about retiring and spending more time at their second home near Naples, Italy, when the opportunity to take over the Olmos Pharmacy came along. Now they are entrepreneurs in the food business all over again, she said.
“Having the passion for good food and such a good experience at Volare Broadway, [we said], why not? If we were successful there, why would we not be successful here?” she said. “We have repeat customers, loyal customers, and we have the ambition to have the same thing here.”
A Streamline Moderne building that first opened in 1938 at the corner of Hildebrand and McCullough avenues, the Olmos Pharmacy has been resurrected several times over the years and most recently housed a restaurant and music venue that closed in 2017.
On Tuesday, the dining room was already set with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths and pizza-sized rotating trays when Pilar Sorgente De La Vega spoke with the Rivard Report about her plans for the new restaurant. First, she said, much about the space will be familiar to devotees of the landmark building.
“Being such an important building, our plan is to not change the ambiance,” she said. So the long counter and stools of the building’s original soda fountain will remain and serve as a place to stop in for coffee, espresso, and Italian pastries.
The neon that outlines the windows and a sign that reads “pharmacy” on the back wall will stay put. The rest of the decor is classic homestyle Italian, casual and welcoming.
De La Vega said she could see the relief in the landlord’s face when she told him the building’s original elements would not be removed or changed. The building owner is George Stone. “He has a lot of heart in this building,” she said.
Fans of Volare also will feel at home. However, the new restaurant will be a much larger version of the Alamo Heights location, opened in 1972, where there are only four tables inside, and much of its business is takeout and catering service. In the Olmos restaurant, there’s capacity for 60 to 70 diners at tables, booths, and the counter.
That will also allow for an expanded menu that includes familiar pizza and pasta favorites with the made-from-scratch sauces Volare is known for, plus some new entrees including frutti di mare, a popular Italian seafood dish.
De La Vega thinks students from area universities and families living in the neighborhood will return to the Olmos Pharmacy for good food in a casual atmosphere the way they once did – even if it’s not malted milk and fudge sundaes. Volare, she said, is the perfect fit for the beloved space.
“They didn’t want to give it to just anybody,” she said. “They wanted to make sure it was in good hands. We understand the history of Alamo Heights. Now being part of Olmos Park, it’s not unknown to us.”
Volare’s owners will announce an opening date on Facebook and on the restaurant’s website. Volare will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.