Italian 'fast casual'
dining from Germany
By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Angela Cheng
221, ZhongXing St, West Dist.
Vapiano has plenty of attributes that make it an awesome hang-out, whether you want a satisfying Italian meal, afternoon tea time, or evening drinks with friends in the upstairs lounge. This attractive glass-walled building on the Calligraphy Greenway features relaxing first-floor seating around the open kitchen and ordering stations while the focus of the stylish upstairs is the bar.
The German-based Vapiano just opened its 150th global restaurant in London, using the same unique, successful "fast casual" formula that Taichung diners experience. Walk in and you're handed an IC card that you can hang around your neck. After getting your table, you then head to the pizza, pasta or antipasti stations and place your order, which is noted on your card. In a few minutes, you pick up your food and take it to your table on a tray. When you're ready to leave, the cashier tallies up the bill from the IC card.
Popular among the 20 excellent pasta options (NT$240-480) is the NT$400 Vongole (clams, onions, garlic, chili, basil). Among a similar number of pizzas (NT$240-480, 28 cm.), the NT$400 Pollo Pesto, topped with a pesto cream sauce and chicken, is a top pick. This month, menu entrees are being reorganized, not by price as before, but under "Classico Italiano", "Vapiano Della Casa" (house creations), and "International Inspired" categories.
A number of fresh options this summer has Vapiano Taichung introducing something that no other Vapiano in the world has--a 2-6 p.m. afternoon tea menu with four Panini sandwich options (NT$160-180), German handmade waffles (NT$80-140) and Vapiano Handmade Molten Chocolate Cake (NT$130, NT$190 with ice cream). In July-August, there are also some soup, salad and pasta specials, like the exquisite Insalata Di Anguria (NT$280), including fried watermelon, spicy feta and balsamic dressing. The usual coffees/teas, beers, wines, cocktails and other spirits are joined by a "summer drinks" menu of alcoholic and "virgin" options, from the NT$240 Pinky Cointreau to the non-alcoholic V-Mojito On Ice (NT$130) and Mango Orange Soda.
Finally, parents shouldn't pass up the free Vapiano Kids' Pizza Event (first Sunday of every month, 3-5 p.m.), when kids can get creative making their personal pizzas (call for details).