Bar Volo (17 St. Nicholas St., 416-928-0018, barvolo.com), the bar that helped introduce the city of Toronto to craft beer, has finally re-opened in a new location just off of Yonge and Wellesley, nearly three years to the day since the original location closed down.
The original Bar Volo is the paterfamilias establishment of the Morana family, made up of proprietor Ralph Morana and his sons Tomas and Julian, who also run Little Italy hot spot Birreria Volo, Keep6 Imports, and the incredibly popular Cask Days, North America’s largest cask beer festival.
Originally opened as a Southern Italian restaurant, Volo (along with the Moranas’ other projects) has been instrumental in shaping the beer scene of Toronto, and arguably Canada, for the better. For over 30 years, the bar served as a craft beer and cask ale institution that managed to embrace the contemporary while still appreciating the classics.
For a space that literally began its soft-open early this month, the new Volo looks and feels like it’s been there for years. The new location, nestled on a side street west of Yonge that contains a multitude of condos, is a lot more spacious than its previous iteration.
A long marble bar, plenty of tables (some of them repurposed barrels), and even a side room for more seating ensures that crowding will be kept to a minimum.
The design is the ultimate combination of the original location and Birreria Volo, bringing in a feel that’s similar to the latter while remaining distinctive on its own. Old wooden tables and church pews are set against walls lined with dark woods, printing press boxes, painted vintage lettering and a brick-covered faux building exterior, making the spot feel comfortably worn in.
As an aside, alumni customers of the original location will further be pleased to know that “Table 7”, the table where people leave a note in the drawer, has made a return at the new space.
“Our goal is to bring back our interpretation of the traditional pub,” says Tomas Morana. “It’s a little bit English and Italian inspired, but more about stepping away from the beer tasting culture (to focus on) full-sized pours and sessionable beers.”
This is Volo we’re talking about, so of course the beers are going to be on point. The initial run of 26 taps include notable selections from Ontario craft beer royalty like Left Field, Godspeed, Bellwoods, and Barncat, along with a selection of quality ciders and collaborations with the likes of Revel Cider, Amsterdam, and Maine-based Oxbow Brewing.
Also available is a unique selection of Keep6-imported wines, spirits, and a number of Southern Italian shareables and mains.
It should be noted that Volo’s role in their own house-branded beers won’t just stop at collaborations with other breweries. Ralph Morana has installed an in-house brewing system, where he plans to create a number of beers served exclusively on cask.
“I still think that when you’ve got a good cask, it’s a great beer to drink.” says Ralph Morana. “If you’re going to do cask, do it right – and if I do something I really want to do it well.”
The initial plan, after the bar has a chance to breathe and the Moranas are finished organizing Cask Days, is for the brewing facility to be up and running early next year. Additionally, the Moranas hope to have a small retail store and coffee program available at some point in the future.
When asked about his hopes for the new Volo, Ralph’s answer is simple: “Just to be a really good bar.” Frankly, they may have already achieved that goal.