Vapiano is a very different sort of Italian restaurant that has a number of very clever and innovative points of difference…. The best way to sum it up is to describe it as a Teppinyaki syle showmanship meets Italian cuisine!!
I was shown this place by a friend and her parents when they came to visit Melbourne for the weekend.
Initially, i was a bit suspicious of the place- after walking in, you kind of realise the place has been set up somewhat like a chain restaurant, ready for marketing and franchising all across Australia and the world at large.
First point of difference is the “techy’ aspect of the payment and ordering systems- there is NO waitress, – the guy at the front counter- I guess you could call him the maître d‘, in a loose sense, first asks if you have been to vapiano before, then gives each person a plastic red prox card, not unlike a Myki card for the trains.
He then explains that each card is a post-paid wallet, that can go up to $75 in debt. You can spend it at the bar, the fresh pasta shop, or just at the open, theatre-like kitchen to buy.. well.. an Italian meal. When you are finished, you take the card to the cashier, and pay off the debt- its like a tab card at a pub. If you lose it.. you have to pay the maximum balance on it. The system is pretty fantastic for large groups and birthday parties, because bill splitting is mandatory.The only catch is that the cards all look EXACTLY the same, so its easy to mix them up if you put them on the table with everyone else’s one.
You go up to the kitchen, which is like a bar full of cooks in white and red uniforms, and tell your chosen chef directly what you want from the menu, then you tap your card at his or her station. The meal is then cooked fresh, from scratch, right there in front of you!
The cooking process is a bit formulaic, where the chef mostly whips out little pre measured baggies and cups of this and that, sort of like the “sandwich artists” in subway do when they make up food in a production line manner there. That said, theres a lot more skill involved in this instance- and the chefs make it look EASY- good for your won cooking confidence.
I ordered a tagliatelle pesto, cheese prawn and pine nut pasta dish- took maybe 7-10 minutes for the chef to cook it up to perfection for me, with him asking along the way how i like it- more cheese, tomato on top, that sort of thing, which makes you feel like a bit of spesh customer. The result was both visually pleasing, decent in size, and totally delicious. I brought some other friends to vapiano again a few weeks later, and they thoroughly enjoyed it.
Oh, and i did happen to notice that there was a happy hour special with cheap beer and wine around knock off time from work… with the big long tables they have, and and easy access bar, vapiano wouldnt be a bad place to