Vapiano offers Euro cuisine at American pace

By By: Becky Price Arts Editor

Vapiano, a newly opened restaurant in Bethesda, is a restaurant of international paradoxes. Its origins are German, but it serves Italian food at American speed.

Vapiano’s main philosophy is to serve fast food in an unrushed atmosphere. Its mantra is seeded in its name; Vapiano is Italian slang for relaxing and taking life easy. Founded in 2002 by Germany’s first McDonald’s franchise owner, the founder sought for the speed of American fast food and the elegance of European fine dining. Essentially its a hybrid of the two, forming a bridge between American style and European mentality.

Upon entering the enormous revolving door, diners are given a computer “Chip Card”; a device which the customer’s food is totaled onto by the chefs at each station. Armed with their cards, diners can wander between the three counters: Pasta, Salad and Paninis, and Pizza and Antipasti. The set-up mirrors a cafeteria, but a very chic cafeteria.

Waiters are rendered obsolete at Vapiano; instead, customers interact with the chefs themselves, and watch them cook the meals on-site (think Mongolian BBQ).

The pizza is Italian food at its best. Devoid of grease, the pizzas are plate-size, thin-crust creations ranging from a reasonable $8-11. The extensive menu allows children and picky eaters to order traditional Margherita pizzas and food conquistadors to delve into pizzas dressed with spicy Sicilian pepperoni or savoy cabbage.

There is an equally extensive selection of pasta. Vapiano has ten different types of noodles, two of which are whole-wheat alternatives. Pasta is cooked in wok-like stainless steel pans and made fresh each morning; the portions are generous yet manageable.

Free, fresh bread complements each meal. Generous side salads are offered for a standard price of $3.

Part of Vapiano’s charm is its versatility and its ability to attract a variety of crowds. Families with toddlers utilize the big communal-style tables, intimate couples chat in large plush chairs, teenage crowds come in large waves, and single parties nurse drinks at the bar. All can enjoy the delectable eats that appeal to both meat-lovers and devoted vegetarians.

Vapiano’s atmosphere is unique. Trees are planted in the middle of the restaurant for decoration, and potted herbs, which are used by the chefs, adorn the long tables, which are made of a taupe oak. On the opposite side of the restaurant, the tables are replaced with ruby plush chairs and glass tables.

Vapiano’s unique dining concept is sure to be a hit for Montgomery County. However, word of warning: Without patience, this restaurant on a Saturday night is almost impenetrable.