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Vapiano


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Eating Italian food in London

Translated by Alison Isherwood — 14 days ago

Original text by Giulia Sci

Us Italians don't really love to eat Italian food when abroad. But sometimes I feel a strong urge to eat something Italian. You can cook pasta at home, but it is nothing compared to the goodness of fresh pasta, home-made, with simple but great quality ingredients. And pizza? You cannot eat pizza outside of Italy because only in Italy do they know how to make it well. I know, England does indeed have a lot of these restaurants with Italian names, but at the end of the day the pizza is only standard and nothing truly Italian.

The salad, however, may be the easiest thing to find, but that does not mean that the quality and the choice of ingredients will be the best. And the desserts? A good panna cotta, a tiramisu, a lemon tart, typical of southern Italy, all of which are not easily found, and you find them prepackaged, prepared with another 5, 000 identical products, that taste nice but would not be recognisable among 10, 000 others of the same product. On the other hand, a dessert made at home and using high quality ingredients? These you will not find.

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And then I tried online. I found some restaurants that prepared some good food, and others that prepared food that was so-so, and so I didn't buy any more. Another that was expensive but mediocre. There are places in London, if we go to Amorino for ice cream (find my review here, even if it's in France, as it is a chain so the review for the place would be the same: http://erasmusu.com/it/erasmus-parigi/cosa-fare/amorino-5526#p389411 - article is in Italian), Caffé Concerto to eat at, as well as Carluccio's or Franco Manca, but they are all have feasible prices if you go once a month, and then you still have restaurants to visit from time to time.

But if you are hungry for Italian food more often, and you want to pay more than a convenient amount, affordable even for students (that are, as we all know, perpetually poor), then you have to go to Vapiano!

It is a Swiss chain, which has had great success in Germany and in Switzerland, of course, but which also has a couple of chains even in England. I know that you will think that a chain, futhermore a chain from Switzerland, could not offer true and proper, authentic Italian food, but you would be very wrong!

Just yesterday I brought some friends of mine to eat there, and they were left speechless because, obviously, at the beginning they didn't want to go because they were suspicious about the taste and the quality of the products, but they have not only changed their minds, they have also said several times that we need to go back!

The place is located on a side street off of Oxford Street, near the underground stop, next to the Nike store, located on the second street to the left, called Great Portland street, and right after the Barclays bank, the symbol of which can be seen from the main road; it is a blue phoenix. You can't go wrong. If you see that symbol, and a Costa on the corner, you are in the right place. But in any case, there are at least two or more Vapianos, but I don't remember the areas because I generally opted for the one in the centre; it is on the most crowded street full of shops in London, so then there would easily be something to do in the surrounding area, while others, I think, are found in Soho and scattered around London.

There are two floors that you can choose from to sit down, with both small and large tables, with cute trees between the tables, fresh basil and rosemary plants, very, very cute to see. There is also a station with more tables around the bar, maybe to have a drink with your friends without having to also eat.

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At the entrance, there is a cashier that will give you a card onto which, whenever you buy something, the money will be loaded and then you will have to pay at the cash desk once you have finished your lunch / dinner.

Also on the ground floor there are sections dedicated to orders and take-aways, that is where you can buy your ready meals. There are three zones in total, one of which is for pasta, where you can choose the type of fresh pasta that you want and that will then be prepared for you in about nine seconds, all in front of your very eyes. You can choose the condiments and spices to add and the dish is ready in a short space of time, and you can enjoy a fresh and excellent-quality pasta, with a rich taste and 100% Italian, guaranteed.

Then there is the pizza zone, where you will go when you already know what pizza you want. Order it and then you will be given a black remote control with red lights, and you will be called when the pizza is ready, and that's when the remote control will start to vibrate and the red light will start to pulse; the time for you to go and get your pizza and then take it to the table and, finally, eat it!

And then there is the salad zone, where you can again choose the ingredients and collect the salad immediately. They prepare it there and then, just like with the pasta, in front of your very eyes. So you can see for yourself that the products are not only good, but also of great quality.

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P. S. Even though this photo is of a Vapiano in Australia - in Sydney, to be precise - the inside has a unique concept that can be found in all Vapianos around the world, so you will find the one in your area is just like this photo, and that is has the same, very Italian atmosphere.

On the second floor, I always go to the second floor because, apart from the tables where you can get comfortable, even if you have to go down to collect pizza and pasta and salads, the second floor is much less crowded, and there are slightly larger tables, the bathrooms and the bar.

At the bar you can drink water for free, there are all the cutlery and handkerchiefs you need, as it is almost all self-service. You can also ask for a drink by paying with the card I mentioned before and then collecting it at the entrance. They have everything, from red wine to white wine, beer and, obviously, coffee to round off your meal. Then there are also the desserts on this floor. They are displayed in a window so that you get a better idea of what they look like.

Obviously, after arriving, after having collected your card, choose your desired spot and look over the menu, whether it's the one for food or for wine (they are two separate menus). Then, once you have chosen what you want, you can go up in groups, but not all at the same time, and order and collect your food.

Ready, stead, eat!

The prices, of course I am going to mention the prices. The prices are fantastic; £1. 90 for an espresso and a maximum of £11 for any particular pizza or for a special pasta. Generally, they cost around £9, but those are the special dishes such as pizza with figs or pasta with salmon that could cost a little more than £9 and you could spend up to £11 but, I'll say it again, no more than that! Drinks, and desserts as well, cost about £4 for something more specific like, for example, a wine or dessert that is a little more complicated to prepare and that contains more ingredients than the others. And it then also depends on the size of everything. There are small and large desserts, and the same goes for the glasses of wine. However for a meal that includes a relatively complicated pizza, a dessert and an espresso, you would be paying around £16, which, for being in the centre of London and for being excellent-quality food, it is really cheap. And, anyway, the menu is on display on the door outside, so, if you don't like the menu, nor the prices, you can decide to not go in!

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I also advise you to go during the week and at lunchtime to experience it with less ruckus and to be able to sit down because at midday or in the evening on a weekend, it is always full and you have to wait a while before going in and eating. Even so, the wait time is short and the service is not only great but also very fast.

Well, let me know if you go and what you think, and if you want more information. Just comment here and I will happily respond to your questions. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this post.

Buon appetito!

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