Vapiano Edinburgh – casual, creative Italian wining and dining for a healthy, happy life

“Chi va piano, va sano e va lontano” is an Italian proverb which roughly translates as “slow and steady, wins the race,” or more philosophically, it means with an easy-going, relaxed attitude, you’ll enjoy a long and healthy life.

The kitchen brigade making the freshest pasta dishes to order

This is very much the motto behind the Vapiano group of Italian restaurants. First launched by Mark Korzilius in October, 2002 in Hamburg, Germany, it is now a global franchise brand with around 200 restaurants in more than thirty three countries on five continents, and many more planned for the future.  The Euro-chic, casual cafeteria-style Vapiano concept of freshly made pasta and pizza has clearly caught on.

As early as the 14th century, Italian chefs were cooking up ravioli and macaroni with spices and parmesan cheese in Aristocratic kitchens but later pasta, as well as cheap pizza, became the staple diet for poor communities especially in Naples and Sicily.

Two boys munching macaroni, Naples, c. 1900 (Library of Congress)

In 1787, Goethe, the German Poet tasted the local speciality with gusto:  “This macaroni was exquisite … The pasta seemed unparalleled to me in its whiteness and fineness.”

Macaroni makers drying the pasta in the sun

Seen as an exotic dish, spaghetti with tomatoes was first invented in the 1840s.   Around fifty years later, during a visit to Naples by Queen Margherita of Savoy,  Chef Esposito named the iconic pizza after her, featuring Basil, Mozzarella, and Tomato, the colours of the national flag which put the humble savoury flat bread in the spotlight.

Margherita Pizza

At this time millions of Italian immigrants were forced to travel for work across Europe and to USA, bringing recipes with them. During the 20th century, Americans in particular developed a love affair with pizza and of course pasta – on the big screen, spaghetti played memorable roles in films such as Disney’s Lady and the Tramp.

The Lady and the Tramp

Vapiano Edinburgh is a very smart, spacious, three floor venue on South St. David’s Street, located between The Ivy on the Square on the corner, and T K Maxx.

Vapiano Edinburgh

Enter the glass doors to be welcomed at the central Reception desk where you check in with the host/ess and given a credit-style card, like a room key.  No you can’t stay overnight!.  This is used to scan the price of your selected food and drinks throughout your meal, and then use it to pay.

Ken and I were shown around by Jackson, the duty manager, who explained the system of ordering your selected dishes – pasta, pizzas, antipasti, salads, desserts – at the separate theatre kitchens on three levels.  First, time to settle down and relax;  we are shown to a table at the end of the mezzanine level, the location of the Bar (very handy!), with a long banquette as well as armchairs with small, low tables.

Bar level with city of Florence backdrop

On the far wall is a huge mural of  the skyline of Florence, the Italian city twinned with Edinburgh.   Elsewhere, throughout the restaurant, there are long oak communal tables with stools like a wine bar, ideal for groups of friends, families or to create a sociable ambience meeting other diners. With cool music on the soundtrack there’s a party vibe at Vapiano.

The extensive menu covers Pasta (vegetarian, with meat, fish and green ingredients), Risotto, Lasagne, Insalata, Pizza, (same range as Pasta), garlic bread, sides and extras. The beauty of the Vapiano style of eating is that everything is prepared freshly for you: at each service station, give your order directly to the chef, mix and match your favourite ingredients to create your own special salads, pizza and pasta.  As Jackson remarked, the cleverly creative Vapiano concept combines “Italian freshness with German precision.”

First stop is the Bar for an aperitif – perhaps a Vapiano G&T, (Hendrick’s with cucumber and rosemary) or a classic Aperol Spritz.  We had an ice cold glass of Prosecco each to kick off our Italian meal.

Vapiano Edinburgh with bar and kitchens over three floors

Time to order our starter and we went off to view the selection of cold dishes and salads at the Counter where we asked the chef for a Vegetarian antipasti to share.  We were given a small “pager” which would beep when this was ready for collection.  A few minutes later Ken collected a huge platter of grilled vegetables, artichokes, mozzarella, pesto, fat olives, and chunky bruschetta:  fresh, colourful ingredients for the summery taste of the Mediterranean.

Superb Antipasti salads

Bruschetta Gambertti

After a breather, time to consider ordering our main course  -it is all so leisurely as you plan your meal, course by course, in your own time.  We were both keen to try a Pizza and the menu lists all the favourites but, of course, you can adapt these by adding your preferred toppings to create your own style.  The pasta and pizza dough is made daily on the premises and all management staff are trained to be able to assist the chefs with rolling out the dough in case extra staff are required.

Upstairs at the Pizza kitchen, Majid, the French Algerian Pizzaoili was most helpful with suggestions – I ordered Gamberetti e Rucola. King prawns, rocket, olives, mozzarella and tomato sauce, while Ken chose his favourite Tonno, Tuna with red onions, tomato and mozzarella with extra rocket. I asked for mine to be extra soft so that the crust is not too crunchy.  Again we were given a timed pager to alert us when the Pizzas were cooked.

From the wine list we selected a bottle of Montepulciano (a very reasonable £16.95), rich in spicy berry fruits.  Within a few minutes, the pager beeped and we were off again to collect our pizzas. Mine had been taken out a minute early that the normal baking time for a softer texture – and we carried these back to our table.  This self service concept is fine to a degree, but I didn’t really like having to clamber down the steep stairs with my plate in one hand, and clutching the hand rail in the other, expecting to trip any second!.   On the tables are bottles of olive oil and fresh basil plants so that you can add herbs and flavour to garnish your dish.

Pizza with king prawns, olives and rocket – yum!

Sipping our wine and munching our delicious fishy pizzas, this was a feast, especially after a huge salad to start, so I asked if it were possible to take half of mine away. No problem and it was quickly boxed up.  Good news – Vapiano offer a take away service so that you can enjoy this freshly made, seriously good food at home.

Our passion in the UK too for Italian cuisine has no sign of falling out of favour and a global favourite of all ages so no wonder Vapiano are opening more and more restaurants across the globe.  The opening in Edinburgh was the first in Scotland, (fifth in the UK), with a Glasgow restaurant just recently launched too.

Vapiano, 7 South St David Street, EH2 2BD Edinburgh

tel. 0131 285 6123

Mon. – Thu. 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Fri. – Sat. 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sun. 11:00 am – 11:00 pm

http://www.vapiano.co.uk

Pizza to take away too

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About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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