A Squared: In The Loop: Vapiano

Thursday, May 22, 2014

In The Loop: Vapiano

So, remember how I had lamented before about the lack of good dining options in the Loop? Well, I have finally found another good one to tell you about!

Vapiano's Loop restaurant is their second in Chicago (the first is up in Lincoln Park), but this is hardly their first. The restaurant chain was founded in Germany and they have over 120 restaurants worldwide, with just a small handful here in the US. It's also a totally different concept from most US restaurants, but the concept and the vibe were definitely reminiscent of some of the cool fast casual restaurants I visited while living in Europe.

Vapiano is a fast casual Italian restaurant, but it's also part bar, part lounge, and a great place for lunch or dinner. I think it would be a perfect place for cocktails and snacks with friends after work! Not only is it the perfect location (in the heart of the Loop), but payment at Vapiano is all on a cool card system. Different stations cater to different foods: one for pasta, for pizza, for salads, and of course, the bar. You walk up, order the food you want, tap your card, and it adds your items to the card and you pay on your way out the door. It's great if you want to linger a while and decide on food as you go. It's also ideal if you're with a group: you can avoid the insanity of dividing up bills.

Alex and I popped in a Friday night after work and it was the perfect way to wind down with a relaxed dinner. We started at the salad station and split a caprese salad. It was a really good size and would make a great entree for one person, so it was great for sharing too. I loved the addition of peppery arugula to the traditional tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad. It really rounded it out nicely.

As normally happens with us at Italian restaurants, Alex ordered a pizza and I went with pasta. Alex went with the Americana Pizza, a traditional red pizza topped with spicy Italian sausage and thick sliced Sicilian pepperoni. The pizza was also a really generous size, so he was able to take half of it home to enjoy for lunch the next day.

I had a great time customizing my pasta with the chefs at Vapiano. I ordered the Pesto Rosso, a fresh tomato pesto sauce with toasted pine nuts. The chefs let me pick from a handful of different pasta shapes and also on add-ins like chicken or shrimp. I settled on papardelle and skipped the meat (since we already had a big salad back at the table) with a little fresh grated Pecorino Romano on top. Their pasta is made fresh in house and I love that great chew you get from fresh pasta. It was perfect with a light, but flavorful sauce like this tomato pesto. I would totally order this combo again!

Although we were full, we did save some room for dessert. And the great thing about dessert at Vapiano is that they're individually portioned and served shooter-style: in both small and larger sizes. Alex went with the strawberry-topped panna cotta and really enjoyed it. I opted for their featured tiramisu, which included a layer of fresh berries that night. It was such a great twist on traditional tiramisu.

Dinner in the restaurant was great, but it was even more fun to find out that Vapiano also sells their fresh pasta by the bag. We took some home and were able to enjoy it for dinner at home later that weekend too!

The next time you find yourself in the Loop-- shopping with the kids at Macy's, in need of a cocktail and a snack after a long work day, or meeting up with the girls for lunch-- stop in to Vapiano! There is truly something for everyone here.

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Editor's note: Our meal at Vapiano was complimentary, however the opinions expressed in this post are my own.


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