Neighborhood: One in Farragut/Dupont Circle, one in Arlington, one in Chinatown
Part of the great food weekend of February 2010, fresh off the Wine and Food Festival, my old roommates Shams was in town, and our friend had organized a birthday get-together for him. Because it was going to be a large group, she decided on the Vapiano on the border between Farragut and Dupont.
Vapiano is one of the best places for large groups, who normally would have to deal with splitting the check; upon entering Vapiano, every individual is handed a chip card which serves as their portable tab for the night. This has obvious benefits for parties, though on some level we could say that it also facilitates dating Dutch-style. Each Vapiano is different, but they have similar decor themes; the one we went to was trimmed in black, white, and crimson red, with each of the walls decorated with photos and murals or shelves of herbs (holy crap, there are a lot of herbs everywhere). The dining area is group-oriented as well, with chef's-counter-style tables, surrounded by cushioned high chair seating. There is a pretty sizable bar area, which has lower red leather chairs, with a fireplace column and dim lighting. This makes for a general trendiness which reverberates through the whole restaurant. All in all, it's not crazy, but certainly it's a hectic, bordering on noisy scene.
Accordingly, Vapiano is a do-it-yourself kind of place, in that there are various stations where you order the different varieties of Italian food that Vapiano features: pasta, pizza, salad. With your card, you are charged as you go, paying when you leave the restaurant. Fresh off the festival, I wasn't looking for too much, so Official Friend of DCWD Monica and I decided to split some pizza, drinks, and dessert.
I've been to Vapiano a couple times, and this instance was pretty emblematic of all those trips; for one no matter when I go, it always seems to be happy hour (Peronis for $4... yes, please). This time, Monica and I got the Diavolo, a mozzarella pizza with pepperoni, peppers, and onions. The pizza style there is New-York-style, greasy and thin to the point of falling apart (which, having grown up in New Jersey, is exactly what I want). The pepperoni was also a nice surprise, looking as if it actually came from a pepperoni sausage, thick cut in small circles. It was a very pleasant tasting pizza. What tastes I did get of other people's pastas were also pleasantly surprising.
The desserts were more along the "eh" line; they have either slices of cake, or cups of dessert. For this meal, I got a chocolate mousse cup and a tiramisu cup; both were perfectly satisfactory
All in all, I would rate Vapiano as a little above average on both food and vibe; given expectations and this blog's general scale, I wouldn't call it 3 star/heart good, but certainly better than satisfactory. I just would caution that around 7pm on any weeknight, with the happy hour crowd coming up from Farragut, it could take a considerable amount of time to just get your food, and the noise level is considerable. Not a terrible date, but maybe more of a blind date/first date kind of place.
Food Rating: ** 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Closest described as Party in the USA
Vibe: Energetic to noisy
Cost: $ (out of 5) (Less than $25 for two)
Pairing: Vapiano is right around the corner from the DC Improv Theater, located at 1140 Connecticut Ave NW. Acts range from improv to standup, and tickets are between $10 and $30 depending on the act.