No one goes to Chef Vola’s for the food. Although the famously clandestine trattoria serves an irresistible cannellini and green bean salad enlivened with sharp locatelli and salami, and tender veal medallions draped in prosciutto, and perfectly crispy eggplant and provolone, along with a bountiful and delish bevy of fresh seafood, the fare could never live up to Vola’s 87-years-in-the-making reputation. Just ask the cab driver during your ride there: He’ll tell you people fly in from all over the world just for dinner there. Or indulge your cab driver on the way back, as he begs for every last detail of your supper. Reasons for making such a fuss are many. There’s the age, of course, but there’s also the location: Tucked behind the basement side door of an easy-to-miss old house, Vola’s is a perpetual hidden gem. There are the difficult reservations: You absolutely must drop a name to receive a call back, so just getting in boosts your ego. Then, there’s the setting: An always crowded, loud, overheated dining room is so charmingly homey, so authentically romantic that you don’t even mind walking through the dish-washing room to reach the restroom. But, most of all, there’s the Esposito family, owners who treat you like their famiglia from Napoli—regardless of who you are (once you get in, that is). Son Lou makes a giftedly nimble performance of reciting the night’s specials. Dad Michael gently, firmly accommodates culinary requests. Mom Louise proudly presents oversize portions—a 16-ounce filet, a butterflied veal chop bigger than your seat, and a single slice of her famous banana cream pie that could easily feed the average family of five—all of which put Maggiano’s and their ilk to shame. As they should. Because this is Chef Vola’s. This is the real thing.