Italian served with a difference.

Australia’s cuisine is an adopted one. Australia has borrowed its cooking styles and techniques from other cultures, both through migration and active importation. The migrants brought with them their history and culture and modified this to suit their new lifestyles. In this sense Australia is developing a cuisine, as all cuisines evolve and change with time.

One culture that has had a significant impact on our eating habits is Italian – pizza, pasta, fresh salads and espresso coffee are all part of our day to day fare. Vapiano is one of many Italian restaurants in Brisbane but it has a unique style – when you arrive, you are given a plastic swipe card which you use to track your purchases. After choosing your meal from the menu – pizza, pasta, salads – place your order directly with the cook at the appropriate kitchen counter – swipe your card to record your order – and then wait and watch as your meal is cooked.

If you order a pizza, you are given a buzzer to tell you when to return and collect your meal. If you want a variety of dishes or drinks you have to go to different counters – swipe – and wait. Once you have your meal – you find a vacant table (or a partner can do this while you wait for the food). And once finished, you take your swipe card to the cashier who gives you your final bill.

Vapiano prides itself on its “fresh casual approach” to Italian dining. There is a range of different pastas made fresh in the restaurant every day, and every meal is prepared to order in front of the customer. There are about 18 different pasta sauces or you can invent your own. Choose from 16 pizzas or select one of the four suggested salads or build your own. There is also a good selection of antipasto, some reasonable desserts and a good range of drinks.

Vapiano is part of a worldwide chain – there are currently two in Australia, with 20 planned. The food is fresh and reasonable – but it can be difficult to synchronise everyone’s meals together! The atmosphere is noisy and a little chaotic.

The service is limited as you collect your own food and find your own table – which can be a challenge when it’s busy and it is popular with the city after hours crowd. And the swipe card – well it’s great for large groups where everyone is paying individually, but it is also easy to accumulate a large bill without knowing until the end.