Across from Dean & Deluca’s in the Uptown area of Charlotte, North Carolina, stands a beautiful tree behind a clear glass window. Behind that, a cafeteria style row offering food being served by what look more like chefs than your typical elementary school lady. A common mistake is that the decor leads to a Japanese fare, which is quickly rectified once I enter the restaurant and observe the Carrara marble everywhere. A typical European building supply, Vapiano’s, owned by Heir Lars Kruse from Germany, explodes with elegance.
Greeted first by Angele, who explains how the process works, we had not planned to dine there that evening and yet her kindness and enthusiasm about the establishment (only 3 months young) made us want to stay. Solid wood floors and tables offer both single chairs topped with camel colored leather and long benches on the opposite side. And, the tree. There are actually two of them and each one is circled by chairs in the same camel hue. On the other side of the dining area, lots of brilliant red in cushion topped chairs and benches with red tables and red chandeliers to complete the look hanging above other areas of the restaurant.
One of my favorite parts is the pasta room. An entire room, although small, is dedicated to making fresh dough for pasta and pizza each day. Even the walls are lined with the Carrara marble that I spoke of earlier. Unfortunately, the pasta making was done for the day so I have to let my imagination and experience lead the rest of the visual way.
First things first. Each guest is given a key card, like you would receive at a hotel that serves as your running tab for whatever you wish to partake in during your visit. From pizza to pasta, salad and sandwich to beers both local and from abroad, wines and cocktails finishing off with a classic Italian desert, you just need to swipe.
For a short time, pizzas between 4 and 7 pm are a very generous $5! Walk around through the ropes to the white jacketed person on duty to place your order. Swipe. He hands me a pager and we sit and wait enjoying a glass of wine from the bar. I was pleased to see a simple and inexpensive Pinot Grigio from the La Fiera region of Venezio, Italy! We return as the pager buzzes across the table to pick up the pizza with plates and silverware on silver trays. Here I do feel a little Ikea like except a bit more upscale and it’s actually quite fun.
The Cappricciosa pizza, lined with thinly sliced ham, mozzarella cheese, fresh mushrooms, black olives and artichoke hearts placed as if made by individual slices upon a thin european style crust. Delicate flavor, perfectly baked to a crispy flaky finish balanced will with just enough toppings, not to allow the pizza to sag in distress from being overloaded. The vegetables were fresh and artichokes soft and tender, the ham flavorful and not too salty. Freshly grated parmesan cheese, mixed with dried oregano and olive oil was a nice treat for the crust after the main toppings were gone.
After your meal is finished and it’s time to head out, simply hand your card to the hostess and “check out your tab”. The only thing that I could think of that could be a problem is that if you don’t pay attention, it could be really easy to spend yourself into a very large hole. “Just swipe” here…. That could happen anywhere though and this is a lot of fun so I do recommend this as a fun night out. Hot date?