As my friends and I were strolling the streets of New York on the eve of Christmas Eve, we randomly came across Vapiano, an Italian Pizza/Pasta/Bar place, and we decided to check it out.
From the get go, we found the process of ordering food was more akin to how you order food for specialty bars at a Cornell University dining hall. When you first enter the restaurant, you are given a card. That card is what you use to keep track of your tab. You take that card to the chef (or bartender) and order what you want, and you will be asked to swipe your card so your tab can be updated. As you are about to leave at the end, you will be asked for the card so the cashier can ring you up for how much you owe.
You then get on the line for what you want (pasta, pizza, panini, etc.). When you get up to the front, you tell the chef what you want, and he will make it right in front of you.
I decided to go with one of the specials tonight, and that was the Pasta Cavolo Verzotto. It was a spicy pasta dish with bacon, cabbage, carrots, a creamy sauce, and crushed red peppers. As per the menu’s recommendation, I went with the linguine.
One of my friends who ordered the same dish felt his pasta was a little underdone, but I quite enjoyed mine. Granted, I found myself waiting for my order to be filled a bit longer than he did, so that may have been the reason, but I did notice the pasta cooking is done quite quickly. As for the sauce: It was unusual, but it was one of the most interesting (in a good way) sauces I have had in a while. It was a perfect melange of cream and spice so neither flavor really dominated. I also really liked the crunch the fresh veggies added to my dish.
What is interesting about the restaurant’s atmosphere is that despite very much being an Italian restaurant, the interior kind of had this East Asian motif to it, almost as if to look like a sushi bar. Overall, I quite liked the way it was done.
In general, Vapiano is a nice change of pace from your typical restaurant. Also, my pasta dish plus a bottle of soda (remember, ALWAYS get soda bottled in glass bottles if possible) cost about $12.50, so I find the price quite hard to argue with. The dish itself is a pretty sizable portion, and you will get pretty a generous (free) helping of bread on the side. I am not sure if I would go so far as to say it is the best Italian food I have ever had, but it was unusual in a way I found appealing.
The verdict: The interesting-est interesting pasta I ever had.