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Friday, February 22, 2008

Thing 99: Vapiano

I need to write about Vapiano ASAP, while it is still a unique-to-DC thing to do. At the moment, aside from going to various cities in Germany, or perhaps Stockholm, the DC metro area is the only place to enjoy this trendy, cafeteria-style lounge, where the food is Italian and the cooks are Aryan imports from Germany. According to Tommy, our blond and blue-eyed pasta cooker, over the next five years the corporation plans to open over 100 locations across the country.

But for right now, this is a fun, unique and uniquely DC thing to do!

The place is part food court, part drinks lounge, part German beer garden, part herb garden, and part dormitory cafeteria. I must admit, at first I was skeptical. Generally, when a restaurant tries to do so much, it does most of it poorly. But we chose it because we were meeting a large group of people coming and going, and in that case it is an ideal set up -- each person is handed an individual gift card when entering -- as you order at the various stations throughout the restaurant, your food and drink gets charged to your own card. At the end of the evening, you settle your tab at the cashier. No waiters, no split or separate checks, if you're still hungry you keep eating, if you're not hungry you have a cocktail and don't worry about it. For a crowd, it is ideal.

It turns out the scene isn't bad, either. The main decoration of the place, aside from red lamps and cushions, are small potted herbs. Truthfully, I kind of love it. It is chic, unique, attractive, and functional! Pots of thyme, rosemary and basil as your centerpiece trumps a boring old salt and pepper shaker set. They're accompanied by decorative bottles of dark golden olive oil, lamplight shining through them. If you're not pleased with your pizza or your pasta you can liven it up yourself with some freshly picked thyme or basil.

The food is made ready to order in front of you, to your specifications, at different stations -- one for salad, one for pasta, one for pizza -- like a college student center's cafeteria. The food is better than at my college dorm, but it also tastes like it's from an upscale cafeteria -- my pasta comes undercooked and with a sweet, industrial orange sauce. One of my friend's fares better with a prosciutto, fig and honey pizza. Prosciutto and fig are the German/Italian's answer to the Hawaiian pizza, and it works really nicely.

There's one on M Street (dangerously close to Camelot, as it turns out), and one out at Dulles, and one set to open in Chinatown. And soon enough, one in a city near you. But for now, enjoy a martini and a slice of pizza in this sleek and stylish cafeteria.


Jefferson M. Stovall said...

And one in Ballston, on Wilson, though I don't remember ever seeing it.

Shana said...

I totally heart Vapiano for the delish pasta and incredibly cheap happy hour ($2 gl of wine)... Full gourmet meal for under $10!