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Vapiano, A Germany-Based Italian Pizza Chain Comes To The DC Area


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The spot on 18th & L that formally housed the Italian takeout/lunch joint and was then rumored to be a new Big Bowl has window signage up for Vapiano. Not much (English) info on the web, but it appears to be a German "fast casual" Italian chain: Vapiano. Their claim to fame seems to be a 'chip card' ordering system where the customer does all the ordering at different stations I'm assuming. Anybody ever been to one overseas? A link on the corporate page references a store opening in Ballston as well. Overall it reminds me of an Italian Wagamama (which could be a good thing if done right; I love Wagamama!)

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Gee, if I'd been to Germany and eaten there I might feel qualified to suggest whether the US outlets might be any good or not, but having only seen a website in German I guess I don't really feel in a position to pronounce either that it's going to be terrible or otherwise resemble some unrelated chain I don't like.

Could we please, for once, stop picking on some place that hasn't even opened yet? We sound like the "cool" kids' table at a junior high cafeteria passing summary judgment on any other children that happen to walk by and incur our undeserved wrath.

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Could we please, for once, stop picking on some place that hasn't even opened yet?

Nope! It's like the sushi place with the conveyor belt. "Chip card ordering system," "fast casual" "Opening in Ballston". It's gonna be yucky. There might be a couple of yummies there, but mostly, my sources say yucky.

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Gee, if I'd been to Germany and eaten there I might feel qualified to suggest whether the US outlets might be any good or not, but having only seen a website in German I guess I don't really feel in a position to pronounce either that it's going to be terrible or otherwise resemble some unrelated chain I don't like.

Could we please, for once, stop picking on some place that hasn't even opened yet? We sound like the "cool" kids' table at a junior high cafeteria passing summary judgment on any other children that happen to walk by and incur our undeserved wrath.

Thanks, Principia, my thoughts exactly.

Anyway, anybody ever actually *been* to one? I work literally on the same block, and if it is:

a) Fast

:P Cheap

c) Good, honest food

it could be the cure for what ails lunch options in the area. I often get takeout and bring it back to my desk (there are plenty of great options there), but on those occasions when I simply have to get out of the office for lunch the choices are surprisingly slim given the restaurant density. It's either expense account joints (I don't have one) or places that dont' seem to understand that the vast majority of lunchers south of the circle actually need to be back at work in about an hour. At best I'm hoping for Wagamama efficiency and quality; at worst I'm dreading CPK or Bertucci's mediocrity.

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According to their website, the one opening imminently is in Ballston. (It's the first entry under "Openings in 2007", with a date of 15.01.2006, which I assume is a typo.) There are two more Washington DC entries, but they're clear at the bottom of the list with no date or even month. Not that it matters greatly, as anyone can intuit that the place will suck. :P

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Why are so many people critical of Italian restaurants in Germany? There is absolutely outstanding Italian in Germany, generally superior, perhaps far superior to what is available here. There is a huge Italian population and consider the proximity of the two countries as well as Italy being "Florida" for a summer vacation for many Germans. Additionally, raw ingredients for the most part are far more available there than on this side of the Atlantic. I would additionally suggest that Germans are absolutely obsessed with Italian food. This restaurant's website is also in English which includes the complete menu.

Having said this they franchise and considering the type of restaurant it promotes itself as, despite my protestations, it may give Italian restaurants in Germany a very bad name. Besides, the one extensive review I read was for a Moscow location and it was very critical. I would expect something on the level of Macaroni Grill, perhaps approaching Carrabba's for taste.

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Well, I've actually been to one (in Frankfurt), and it was pretty good iirc, though they did offer certain ingredient combinations that one often encounters in the German Italian restaurants and might seem odd to the American eye. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it suits the "national palate." On a broader note, take Joe H's advice and lay off German food- I've had some of the best meals of my life in Germany and Austria (which I would argue has a completely separate cuisine even if it gets lumped in with d-land a lot of time).

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There is one going into Gallery Place/Chinatown. Shortly after it was announced, a poster reviewed one of the chain's restaurants in Germany. Not too flattering.

Click

It could be better in United States though, given that some companies have different strategies across countries.

This sounds like the way La Madeleine is set up and brings people through, but they do what they do pretty well. I'd be willing to give this a try...I think.
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Shortly after it was announced, a poster reviewed one of the chain's restaurants in Germany. Not too flattering.

Yikes. From that review it sounds even worse than the screamingly horrible Mövenpick, but similar in concept. The waiting-in-multiple-lines thing. Why does anyone think that's a good idea? Waiting in line is generally not something people seek out.

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This sounds like the way La Madeleine is set up and brings people through, but they do what they do pretty well.
I dunno; there's really only one line through La Madeleine, at least in Rockville and Tyson's. Vapiano's setup sounds more like your typical multi-station non-Google corporate cafeteria...or maybe Mitsitam in NMAI. We'd be lucky if the food is as good...
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I dunno; there's really only one line through La Madeleine, at least in Rockville and Tyson's. Vapiano's setup sounds more like your typical multi-station non-Google corporate cafeteria...or maybe Mitsitam in NMAI. We'd be lucky if the food is as good...
You're right. Le Madeleine only has one line.
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We tried Vapiano in Ballston for dinner tonight. We only tried one pasta and pizza, but it wasn't bad for a fast food type cheap place for dinner. When we walked in, a hostess asked us if we were familiar with the concept and gave us the rundown of what to do. The seating is couches/tables or long tables with bar-like stools. I didn't walk to the end of the restaurant to see if there were any other type of seats. We each got a Vapiano card and a menu and headed to the food stations - desserts/alcohol, pasta, pizza, salad. There's also a big pasta machine where they supposedly make pasta in house though we didn't see it in action. There were no lines at all when we got there, but then crowds of people started coming in (from where I don't know). I can see it being annoying if you have big lines when you go.

I went to the pasta station -- you pick a sauce and get your choice of pastas (they have a stand up card on the counter that shows you the names of the pastas they have with pictures of the shapes). I ordered campanelle pasta with pesto. The guy picked up a clamshell package of pasta among many that were lined up behind him and put it in something that looked like a fry basket in hot water. He then cooked up the pesto in front of me, gave me my bowl of pasta, asked if I wanted bread and gave me two slices of bread on a plate. I then held the card in front of the cash register to "swipe" it though there's no actual swiping going on, you line up the Vapiano logo on your card with the logo on the back of the register facing you. (It has to be the correct side of the card. I got lucky the first time, but had two unsuccessful tries when I went back for a diet coke). You also pick up a tray, silverware, and napkins at the station. The pasta was pretty good, slightly chewy, like fresh pasta. The pesto was a bit oily. They have olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper at the tables.

My husband went to the pizza station. For pizza they give you a buzzer to call you when it's ready. So in the meantime, he went to the bar station and got our beer and wine. They have soft drinks and water at the pasta and pizza stations - they carry the coke and diet coke that comes in little glass bottles. He had the caprese pizza with basil and mozzerella which came with a thick slice of tomato with fresh mozzerella melted on top and a basil leaf towards the crust side of almost every slice. The pizza was about the size of a plate, typical individual sized pizza. The middle part of the crust was a little soft, it could have been crunchier, and I thought it was ok, not that great. It got better when I reached the tomato/basil/mozzerella part and the crust was crispier on the edge.

We had a few servers come by and ask us how things were. A server comes by and takes your plates when you're done. The service was enthusiastic and friendly. You pay when you leave at the cashier near the entrance. For the pasta, pizza, a beer, a glass of red wine, and a diet coke, our bill was a little less than $31 for dinner for two. There's alot of better places for pizza, but I thought it was good for fast, fresh made pasta. We went with plain, non meat, choices this time. Next time I'd be interested in trying the pastas with sausage or tuna (or the odd combination of turkey breast, orange-chili sauce, bok choi, and bell peppers with pasta?) and see how those are.

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Phew - I was surprised to read the first few entries when i saw the header tonight. So quick to judge - funny & entertaining, but v unlike most posts on this site.

I've been consulting for Vapiano since February (event planning and translating/creating U.S. materials) and Don, if its okay, I'd love to provide an update...

1. Now available-- www.vapiano.com for menus, testimonials and background...in english. They read this very site for tips on how they should design their website. (thank you!) No crazy flash, menus on .pdf. quick to load. You can look it up on YouTube, too. I finally entered the 21st century and used YouTube. I leave myspace to the younger LRAers, though.

2. C'mon now - what happened to "don't knock it til you try it?" - the tuna-based pasta dish has an olive oil base, fresh dill and vegetables and while not an everyday recipe for Americans, tastes mahhhvelous, dahhhling. we did a mega-tasting as you can imagine - personal likes were pizza with proscuitto and figs and pasta with lime butter & mint. Something new, fresh, different. It's your tongue, though, right?

3. When a new concept popular in Europe ventures to the States, its impossible to foresee how it will succeed as our cultures differ on so many levels - your feedback about the food and the chipcard process will help them translate the concept here in the best way. So bring it on!

Since the VIP party and opening on Thurs., I've received dozens of encouraging/postiive emails (almost a hundred) from press, residents, neighbors, et al. The late night eating (til midnight) is extremely attractive to the neighborhood thus far. And yes, if it must be compared to another concept, Wagamama is probably closest to the mark. Le Madeleine (its been since '99 for me) doesn't carry the same modern vibe and Mitsitam is more cafeteria-esque than Vapiano (but i agree the irfood is superior to most museum dining).

And yes, Vapiano is opening at 18th and M in just a few weeks - Memorial Day at the very latest.

If you're curious and live/work in the area, send me your (street) address and I'll send you an invite to the DC vip pre-opening. RSVP is required. carrie@lindarothpr.com

My intention here is not to shamelessly promote, but to respond to some of the doubts posted here before it opened. All's fair in love and dining - perhaps that's more catchy than true.

Thanks for the time.

and p.s. german lesson of the day -- it will suck can best be said "Es saugt" tschus! :blink:

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The wraps came off the 18th and M location last week, and as I strolled by this morning they were in final preparation for opening tomorrow, 6/1. I may check it out for lunch if I have time especially since they have installed a whole bunch of outdoor seating in the courtyard. That's a shady plus in weather like this.

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This is a little off-topic, but I personally found Vapiano not worthwhile. Service was slow, and food was mediocure. I'd save my money for RK.

concur. I wouldn't mind giving it another try (I only went once, a couple days after it opened), but I'm in no rush. The pizza was sloppily assembled, and the bruschetta (i had to ask for it, they forgot I had ordered it) was very un-impressive.

Anybody tried the pasta side of things?

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concur. I wouldn't mind giving it another try (I only went once, a couple days after it opened), but I'm in no rush. The pizza was sloppily assembled, and the bruschetta (i had to ask for it, they forgot I had ordered it) was very un-impressive.

Anybody tried the pasta side of things?

Now that I'm actually in the thread... my friend's pasta was undercooked and underwhelming. The pizza crust looked crisp but was limp and really lacked flavor development.

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Since no one appears to have posted a link to the Washington Post's story, I will. To summarize the piece, Vapiano is "better and more ingratiating than expected." I agree. I work in the area and welcome the ability to drop in at odd times (closing time is late, albeit variable in my experience). I have eaten there about five times.

The pastas are simple. They are not what one would expect from a restaurant charging higher prices, but satisfying for under $10. But its peers are not Maestro and (the late) Galileo; they are fast food places and "family" restaurants. With my expectations tuned to the latter, I have been satisfied in my visits. As someone else opined earlier in this thread, I agree that the pizzas are better at pie-tanza but they are okay here (perhaps I have low expectations for pizza since I was not brought up in the NY-NJ-CT area). The dishes will not impress, neither will they challenge the cautious eater. Reading the cards listing the various dishes, you will have a good idea of what you will receive.

I assume most of the business comes from people in the neighborhood who are walking by the location. There is not a lot of parking nearby. I have only been there for dinner and they appear to be doing okay business. I am not sure how many people are served for lunch as the least expensive salads, pastas, and pizzas are $7, which might be a little too much (both portion size and price) what many people want for lunch.

And service is friendly - the system with logging purchases on the smart card is patiently explained. Paying the check is simple - no flagging down a waiter and waiting for the bill to be prepared. I also understand there is "happy hour" pricing on some of the beer and wine.

Finally, please take the WP's advice in its story to be generous with tipping. It states that tips are pooled so I hope that they all (bussers, cooks, bartender, cashiers) benefit from the arrangement. By its arrangement, Vapiano most resembles a cafeteria (where I do not usually tip) but I am happy to add a tip to the modest amount I am charged here.

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Since no one appears to have posted a link to the Washington Post's story, I will. To summarize the piece, Vapiano is "better and more ingratiating than expected." I agree. I work in the area and welcome the ability to drop in at odd times (closing time is late, albeit variable in my experience). I have eaten there about five times.

The pastas are simple. They are not what one would expect from a restaurant charging higher prices, but satisfying for under $10. But its peers are not Maestro and (the late) Galileo; they are fast food places and "family" restaurants. With my expectations tuned to the latter, I have been satisfied in my visits. As someone else opined earlier in this thread, I agree that the pizzas are better at pie-tanza but they are okay here (perhaps I have low expectations for pizza since I was not brought up in the NY-NJ-CT area). The dishes will not impress, neither will they challenge the cautious eater. Reading the cards listing the various dishes, you will have a good idea of what you will receive.

I assume most of the business comes from people in the neighborhood who are walking by the location. There is not a lot of parking nearby. I have only been there for dinner and they appear to be doing okay business. I am not sure how many people are served for lunch as the least expensive salads, pastas, and pizzas are $7, which might be a little too much (both portion size and price) what many people want for lunch.

And service is friendly - the system with logging purchases on the smart card is patiently explained. Paying the check is simple - no flagging down a waiter and waiting for the bill to be prepared. I also understand there is "happy hour" pricing on some of the beer and wine.

Finally, please take the WP's advice in its story to be generous with tipping. It states that tips are pooled so I hope that they all (bussers, cooks, bartender, cashiers) benefit from the arrangement. By its arrangement, Vapiano most resembles a cafeteria (where I do not usually tip) but I am happy to add a tip to the modest amount I am charged here.

Thank you. Very eloquently stated. (See the TMB Downtown Lunch Club thread for another link to the WaPo story--post #15)

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Is there a bar, or do you just pick up your drink as you move thru the line? Does it serve decent German bier? Looks like just standard American beer, plus Peroni & Pilner Urquell. A friend is organizing an evening event there, and its a crowd that will want to drink copious amount of beer. (Its a German group though, so this may make sense.)

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The boyfriend and I tried Vapiano on Saturday night, and we were actually quite pleased. Considering that we are a poor public servant and an even poorer law student, it was refreshing to be able to eat (and drink) good stuff during prime weekend time for a reasonable price.

We went to the bar first, where the happy hour lasts till 8 PM, 7 days a week, and consists of $2.50 Peroni draft, Pilsner Urquell draft, house pinor grigio, and house red (can't remember the varietal, sorry). We each had two beers, and then we tried both of the wines--not bad at all, especially given the price. To be able to get three drinks for $7.50 on a Saturday night in DC is nothing short of a miracle. The bartender was also very friendly and knowledgeable.

We decided to try both a pasta and a pizza. For the former, we opted for a pomodoro with spinach over linguine. The sauce was tasty, the spinach was fresh, and the noodles were well cooked, at least for my taste (I like them just a touch softer than al dente). We wanted to try the pizza with the prosciutto, figs, and honey, but they were out of figs (grrrrr). So, we tried just a cheese pizza with prosciutto--the crust was thin and crispy, and the sauce had a decent tang to it. I would normally have been dissatisfied with the amount of cheese on the pie, but I'm trying to limit my fat intake, so it was actually perfect.

There are no servers, but we didn't feel like service was lacking--our plates were cleared quickly, the cooks were pleasant to deal with, and the staff made sure that we had everything we needed. I actually relished the "do-it-yourself" system--it allowed us to have a nice chat without the usual interruptions. Don't get me wrong, I like to be waited on--but sometimes change is good.

Our total, for 6 drinks, a pizza, and a pasta, came to about $34. After leaving a hefty tip (hey, I work in the biz, and I need the good karma), we left, full and tipsy, for under $45. Was everything perfect? Nope. Was it a sublime dining experience? Of course not. But, it was tasty, fresh food at bargain prices--and there's definitely a time and place for that.

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Some varied opinions on Vapiano on 18th St I see and it's still not that consistent as far as I'm concerned. My manager and colleague went on a Thursday and gave such rave reviews we all went back the very next day for our Friday lunch... it was very busy and my pasta dish was somewhat bland and slightly undercooked (I thought they timed those - so maybe the pasta itself was too cold or something?). The bar service also left something to be desired. It's a novel experience tho, I'll grant them that, and nicely decorated and presented. I would try the pizza next time as I heard from those that ordered it that it was good. I still have their menu brochure pinned on my office wall.

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I stopped by the 18th Street location. Since the service is essentially DIY, the service sucked. Ever had a

server who was new on the job? I mean really new? I mean "where are the knives and forks?" new? That was me.

The food ... eh, I would go back if it was 95 degrees out, I was standing in front of the main entrance, and I

needed a beer.

As a kid, I was facinated by the Automat in NY (it was like buying a slice of pie from a vending machine).

Maybe technology-fascinated kids would find Vapiano fun.

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I'm a new convert to Vapiano's. Actually went twice this weekend.

This place is perfect for the times when you don't feel like being trapped at a table at the mercy of a waitstaff and slow kitchen, or you just don't have the time. You just go up to the appropriate counter and they prepare the food for you. Dino or 2 Amy's it ain't, but the price is certainly right. The most expensive item is like $10.25!!

I can see myself stopping by here after work many nights for a quick takeout dinner. It's nearly as quick as Chipotle or Five Guys, but has a more interesting menu.

My only complaint was that I couldn't figure out how to get a simple drink of water. Since there's no waitstaff, and they don't offer bottled water at the food stations, I ended up having to go over to the bar.

Oh, and this is terrific for groups, too. Everyone gets their own card -- no worrying about splitting the check or people underpaying.

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I'm a new convert to Vapiano's. Actually went twice this weekend.

This place is perfect for the times when you don't feel like being trapped at a table at the mercy of a waitstaff and slow kitchen, or you just don't have the time. You just go up to the appropriate counter and they prepare the food for you. Dino or 2 Amy's it ain't, but the price is certainly right. The most expensive item is like $10.25!!

I can see myself stopping by here after work many nights for a quick takeout dinner. It's nearly as quick as Chipotle or Five Guys, but has a more interesting menu.

My only complaint was that I couldn't figure out how to get a simple drink of water. Since there's no waitstaff, and they don't offer bottled water at the food stations, I ended up having to go over to the bar.

Oh, and this is terrific for groups, too. Everyone gets their own card -- no worrying about splitting the check or people underpaying.

The last time I went my card wouldn't scan, and the cook at the pizza station seemed to think it was my failure. After several attempts to get the card to read, he left the station for a while, and then returned without comment. I was perplexed and said, "what happens now?" He let me place a pizza order. And a veal with tuna sauce order. Same station. Same non-working card.

The food was fine (the veal with tuna sauce was too cold in my opinion - room temperature is not ice cold unless you live at the North Pole). But when we left, the check-out person said, "Oh, your card wouldn't scan. We've rung up your bill." Fine, except that the bill was wrong (charged for three Peronis, only had two). The check out person couldn't find a manager, and ended up comping us for two Peronis...which was fine but the whole ordeal was very long and drawn-out.

All in all, we spent more time there on a Sunday afternoon dealing with serving issues than eating. Strange.

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The last time I went my card wouldn't scan, and the cook at the pizza station seemed to think it was my failure. After several attempts to get the card to read, he left the station for a while, and then returned without comment. I was perplexed and said, "what happens now?" He let me place a pizza order. And a veal with tuna sauce order. Same station. Same non-working card.

The food was fine (the veal with tuna sauce was too cold in my opinion - room temperature is not ice cold unless you live at the North Pole). But when we left, the check-out person said, "Oh, your card wouldn't scan. We've rung up your bill." Fine, except that the bill was wrong (charged for three Peronis, only had two). The check out person couldn't find a manager, and ended up comping us for two Peronis...which was fine but the whole ordeal was very long and drawn-out.

All in all, we spent more time there on a Sunday afternoon dealing with serving issues than eating. Strange.

In that situation, I would go to the hostess stand and exchange my card when it first would not scan...I'm curious--did you ever ask if that was an option?
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In that situation, I would go to the hostess stand and exchange my card when it first would not scan...I'm curious--did you ever ask if that was an option?

Yes, we did. We tried TWO cards. The cook even took the card himself for an exchange - but the hostess wasn't there the second time he went (the place was dead)...and he was frustrated that he couldn't find her. The cards looked very worn - perhaps those mag strips don't last forever? It was my first trip there and it was truly a comedy of errors.

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First experience, and a quick update, since the last post was in spring. I was lucky to not have issues with my card because I phoned ahead. I ordered the Pizza Crudo e Fichi (prosciutto, figs, honey from acacia blossoms) and am enjoying it quite a bit. I just now noticed that they omitted the tomato sauce and mozzarella from my pizza comparing to what is described on the menu, but I think that the honey + fig flavor accentuates the crust perfectly, giving the pizza a sweeter taste than expected, yet enjoyable.

Can't recommend the tiramisu, since it's just ok, but wanted some sort of dessert. ;)

HOWEVER, they have teeny gummy bears in a huge jar, which just made my evening, since I have to work until midnight tonight. :lol:

ETA: I went to the 18th & M location.

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Still a fan after these many months. Chinatown location opening in September, supposedly.

One note: make sure you watch how much salt they put in while making your pasta -- some of the chefs are a bit heavy handed with it.

And when they ask if you want it spicy, they take you seriously! (That is, the spicy can get pretty spicy.)

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I'm not sure the H Street Vapiano is proceeding. The front is all sealed up again, no permits displayed and no workers present.

I'm told there has been a slowdown on the base building construction due to funding problems - no shock there.

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Though their web site says Feb 24, 2009, when I passed by tonight, the H Street Vapiano looks to now be open.
I was there tonight. I will admit - wound up there because Matchbox had a 1/2 hour wait at 5:00 and had the girls downtown for circus. Never heard of the place before but I had promised pizza.

The pasta was good and definitely fresh, some of the sauces could use a bit more flavor. The sauces are mixed together immediate so this is going to vary with who you get. I also told them it was for the kids so I think they dumbed down the sauce (not necessary a bad thing with my kids but...). Just an FYI - My kids thought the pasta and white sauce was "THE BEST" so you can take that for what it is worth.

Pizza - was good (not great good). Crust was crunchy and also definitely freshly but missing something. Cheese was plentiful and flavorful, tomato sauce not overpowering to allow other flavor thru. The proscutto was good middle of the road proscutto (Had better, was expecting bulk mass food crap and definitely exceeded that).

Desserts - Missing a step, Chocolate Mousse (Must be spoiled by RTS and everyone else pales), also tried panna cotta (I LOVE Trader Joes and this wasn't even close the strawberry sauce was too sweet with no real fruit and the base makes you regret wasting the calories) they have two sizes mini and reguar.

Bottom Line - If going to Verizon Center can be okay but will probably be inconsistent. Definitely not worth a special trip.

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I was there tonight. I will admit - wound up there because Matchbox had a 1/2 hour wait at 5:00 and had the girls downtown for circus. Never heard of the place before but I had promised pizza.

The pasta was good and definitely fresh, some of the sauces could use a bit more flavor. The sauces are mixed together immediate so this is going to vary with who you get. I also told them it was for the kids so I think they dumbed down the sauce (not necessary a bad thing with my kids but...). Just an FYI - My kids thought the pasta and white sauce was "THE BEST" so you can take that for what it is worth.

Pizza - was good (not great good). Crust was crunchy and also definitely freshly but missing something. Cheese was plentiful and flavorful, tomato sauce not overpowering to allow other flavor thru. The proscutto was good middle of the road proscutto (Had better, was expecting bulk mass food crap and definitely exceeded that).

Desserts - Missing a step, Chocolate Mousse (Must be spoiled by RTS and everyone else pales), also tried panna cotta (I LOVE Trader Joes and this wasn't even close the strawberry sauce was too sweet with no real fruit and the base makes you regret wasting the calories) they have two sizes mini and reguar.

Bottom Line - If going to Verizon Center can be okay but will probably be inconsistent. Definitely not worth a special trip.

A year ago I went to the original in an office building in downtown Hamburg, Germany. With the Euro @ 1.57 to the dollar and hungry I wasn't looking for a great Italian restaurant. I wanted quantity and value. Vapiano, crowded on a Sunday night there, was perfect. Recently, with the Euro @ 1.24 I didn't even consider it.

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I had my first Vapiano experience yesterday. Went to the 18th & M location for lunch with a friend, and we both thought the food was mediocre and overpriced. We both had a pasta dish. Mine was ricotta and spinach ravioli with sauce. Add a diet coke, and the total came to $14.50. Expensive for what it is. The pasta was good, but the sauce was watery and tasted worse than Ragu IMHO. Definitely it wasn't worth the price. Another thing we disliked was the ordering system and the gimmicky card thing. I really disliked the whole vibe of this place.

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Vapiano now open in downtown Bethesda, next to Taylor Gourmet. They whacked my auto repair shop to erect the new building, so I'm a little cheesed about that ... but we move on.

Special? Not particularly. $4 Peronis at Happy Hour? Better. For what this is worth, my kids loved it - they got to talk to "the chefs", scan cards, and sit at little tables just like grownups! Pizza was doughy but the sauce wasn't bad - pepperoni is really salami, but kindergarteners don't care about that.

Never take a recommendation for a grilled BBQ chicken panini. Just don't. Mrs. Rockcreek's bolognese sauce came really arrabiata, but that's how she asked for it. Not bad, had a little body to it and just a little touch of acid. (But for me, I don't order pasta out unless it can sing me Verdi afterwards.)

Nu? Good for kids, as long as you go early and already have a parking spot.

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Vapiano now open in downtown Bethesda, next to Taylor Gourmet.

Special? Not particularly.

Nu? Good for kids, as long as you go early and already have a parking spot.

My kids think it is very cool that swipe cards and cook pasta right in front of them.

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How can such mediocrity be catching on in this economy? The new Vapiano in the Reston Town Center, right around the corner from PassionFish, appears to be progressing towards a near term opening in the next month or so. Added to the crap being dished out at Jackson's and Julio's and Big Bowl, the Disney-esque Town Center continues to underwhelm what could be an informed and well-heeled culinary crowd. What a waste of opportunity.

Only PassionFish stands out in the Town Center, amid chain after loathsome chain....

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How can such mediocrity be catching on in this economy? The new Vapiano in the Reston Town Center, right around the corner from PassionFish, appears to be progressing towards a near term opening in the next month or so. Added to the crap being dished out at Jackson's and Julio's and Big Bowl, the Disney-esque Town Center continues to underwhelm what could be an informed and well-heeled culinary crowd. What a waste of opportunity.

Only PassionFish stands out in the Town Center, amid chain after loathsome chain....

Agreed. Oh and you forgot about the overpriced, underwhelming Il Fornaio. Elsewhere on the outskirts, there's been a sign up for a while noting the coming soon of a Kabob joint that looked like it may be a local place. Not a "restaurant" in the bigger dining venues, but still a new option for a quick bite. (if it ever opens.)

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I guess I'm in the minority plus I live in Arlington where we have lots of chains and mom-and-pops, but I like Vapiano's (the one in Ballston). I think their pizza is very good and their concept clever. At least it isn't a Sbarros because then I would agree with you.

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I guess I'm in the minority plus I live in Arlington where we have lots of chains and mom-and-pops, but I like Vapiano's (the one in Ballston). I think their pizza is very good and their concept clever. At least it isn't a Sbarros because then I would agree with you.

Curious, why do you feel the concept is clever?

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