Short Takes: Vapiano – DC

A Danish pizza-and-pasta chain.

How to get a handle on Vapiano, the new Euro “fast casual” pasta-and-pizza import? The place looks sleek and German, the kerchief-wearing cooks behind the prep counter evoke a diner in the South, the food is Italian, and the method of cooking the pastas is Chinese.

You place your order with one of the cooks, who pours a spot of olive oil into a wok, pops precooked pasta into a vat of bubbling hot water, and begins to assemble your dish, mixing prechopped ingredients with a spatula. It’s a very “pre-” experience, down to the plastic “chip card” that gets scanned when you place your order.

The efficiency should appeal to office workers on the clock at lunch. As fast food goes, it’s not bad. The pastas are decent when hot out of the wok, less so after five minutes when things begin to clump. Pizzas are more conventionally cooked and surprisingly tasty—I like the crust, but the cheese tends to slide off, and a version topped with prosciutto, sliced figs, and acacia honey is cloyingly sweet.

This review appeared in the September 2007 issue of the magazine.