When Volare opened in fall of 2004, it singlehandedly made Wixom a dining destination. Now in its new location — still in Wixom but down the street from its original spot — it is even more appealing. What was a three-and-a-half-star restaurant has achieved the full four stars.

Chef/proprietor Dino Grossi has a smaller space to work with, but it hasn't hampered the quality of the outstanding Italian steakhouse fare, and the setting is perhaps more attractive now that it's less formal and much cozier.

The high-ceilinged main dining room has brick walls rather than the elaborate Venetian plaster and double-covered tables of the former setting, and the simple décor lit by open filament bulbs on wrought-iron chandeliers. The small bar, just lightly separated by little café curtains, has a rustic feel. The dining room dimensions are pretty much doubled by the seatings on the covered and heated patio, which is intended to be open all year round.

What sets Volare apart, of course, is not the décor, as attractive as it is. It is the handling of impeccable ingredients, many of them imports from Italy, and others from quality sources here, by a staff that makes pretty much everything that emerges from the glass-walled kitchen visible behind the bar. And that includes the irresistible focaccia brought to the tables with a colorful little tin of Partanna extra virgin olive oil from Sicily, an especially nice touch. About the only thing not made in house is the gelato, which is among such classic desserts as tiramisu and crème brulee.

House specialties include branzino, the Mediterranean sea bass served whole from the wood-burning grill; an appealing chicken dish, chicken Scarpariello, roasted organic chicken in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers and onions atop roasted potatoes; the excellent house sausage subtly flavored with fennel; and three steak choices. King of the hill in that department is the 42-ounce prime dry-aged porterhouse, thankfully served for two at $48 per person. There's also a delightful 8-ounce center-cut tenderloin filet and what seems to be the steak of choice all over town lately, bone-in ribeye, meat that is butchered in the kitchen.

The other day at lunch, it was somewhat surprising to see the branzino being served in all its glory. That's quite a lunch. Other dishes on both lunch and dinner menus include chicken Scarpariello and the filet, as well as a list of pastas, including spinach fettuccine with wild mushrooms, rigatoni with more of that fennel sausage, and garganelli with proscuitto peas and cream.

Service by the black-clad staff is expert, as befits a restaurant with high ambitions.

Chef/proprietor Grossi has all the credentials. He's a product of the culinary program at Schoolcraft College, and he spent two summers in Italy polishing his skills. He should certainly be proud of what he and his staff are accomplishing in an offbeat location.

(313) 222-1475

Volare Ristorante

48992 Pontiac Trail east of Wixom Road, Wixom

Call: (248) 960-7771


Rating: ★★★★

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 5-11 p.m. Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Appetizers $6-$22; lunchtime salads, sandwiches and burgers $7-$12; pizzas $12; lunch pastas and entrees $16-$29; dinner entrees $14-$65; desserts $6-$8

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Full bar and a notable wine list

Noise level: Moderate

Parking: Attached lot

Wheelchair access: No barriers

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