By Misun Farley
On a quiet Wednesday night, I dined at Vapiano. I wanted to see what sets it apart from central Manchester’s other Italian places boasting pastas with fresh ingredients and a ‘from-scratch’ ethos.
Interestingly Vapiano is surrounded on both sides by other Italian restaurants. The restaurant has the difficult job of holding its ground with Salvi’s (practically a Mancunian institution) on the left and Riva Blu to the right.
Vapiano, however, is not without recognition, having been open in the UK since 2016 with branches across London, Manchester and Edinburgh. All these restaurants offer a creative approach to your favourite pasta dishes. But, does their creativity ruin the classic pasta experience?
I started my meal off with an aperitif – the humble Negroni – and was not at all disappointed. It was the first time my companion had tried a Negroni and he was pleasantly surprised by the bitter-and-sweet combination. The drinks menu had many other classic cocktail options, such as a Strawberry Mule and a Gin Fizz, which I have no doubt are equally as tasty.
For the meal, we shared a bottle of organic Italian wine from Sicily called Da Vero. It was an average red but did pair nicely with the pasta.
Vapiano serves fully customisable pizzas, with options like the classic Diavolo or a hearty Calzone with mushrooms, prosciutto and mozzarella. For this meal, however, we decided to order two kinds of pasta – Gamberetti e Spinaci with Tagliateli and Bolognese with Penne – along with the Risotto ai Funghi.
I liked the idea that each pasta dish gives the choice of eight different homemade pasta shapes, promising a level of quality no matter the choice, and variety no matter the customer.
Before we go any further, it’s worth noting that unfortunately the type of pasta that we ordered for the dishes was switched around. But regardless, the Gamberetti e Spinaci was enjoyable, featuring king prawns, cream, Italian hard cheese, nutmeg, fresh spinach, cherry tomatoes and basil pesto.
In reality, because they were out of spinach, it was a Gamberetti e Rocket with diced tomatoes. But I’m a fiend for basil pesto and this dish provided. We were recommended this dish by the server and I must say I absolutely agree with his suggestion.
Onto the winner of the night, the Risotto e Funghi with mushrooms, rosemary, balsamic onions, garlic oil, white wine, cream, butter, Italian hard cheese, nutmeg and parsley. This was a perfectly cooked Risotto that I could not stop eating once I had my first bite. I only shared two spoonfuls with my companion and enjoyed every morsel of this dish for myself. It was cheesy, buttery and delicious. I would highly recommend it.
Unfortunately, the Bolognese with Tagliatelle (classic beef ragu, red wine, onions, carrots, cherry tomatoes, tomato sauce, and basil) missed the mark this time around. It had a very sour sauce and a raw carrot flavour that was hard to look past. The pasta quality was unusual because even though it tasted great and you could tell it was homemade, it was unfortunately cooked a bit too long. So by the time the pasta had sat in the sauce for more than ten minutes, it became very gummy and difficult to eat. This was less of a problem with the Penne in the Gamberetti.
For dessert, we both ordered the Tiramisu. Even after being stuffed with pasta and risotto, the dessert was well worth every bite. It was fantastic. The strong coffee flavour and velvety mascarpone combined to create a classically perfect execution of the Tiramisu we all love. It’s safe to say the cup was completely clean by the time I was done with it.
Although Vapiano slightly missed the mark with the Bolognese with Tagliatelle, I still had a very enjoyable evening with some wholesome Italian food.
The servers were nice, the food was cooked quickly and, for the most part, tasted great. The price point of this pasta destination is a big incentive to give Vapiano a try as the restaurant actually sells their pasta and pizza cheaper than the Pizza Express next door.
The lights are dim, and the decor is nice- fresh basil and rosemary plants on the tables are a creative touch- making Vapiano suitable for an affordable date night in town.
I would definitely recommend it to a friend.
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0161 275 2930 University of Manchester’s Students’ Union, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PR