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Day 186: Vapiano Pasta | Pizza | Bar

Vapiano Outdoor Seating

My daughter suggested we try Vapiano tonight located at 4900 Hampden Lane.  I had lunch here once before and I must admit that the European concept threw me off at first but tonight I think I grasped the idea much better.  Here’s the setup.  You arrive at the restaurant and you are given a plastic card from a friendly and helpful greeter at the front desk, much like a credit card, and then you take this card with you to one or more of several food stations located along the far wall of the restaurant.  The cleverly and well-appointed “fresh casual” restaurant features Italian decor.  Above the “chefs” are clever drawings and expressions, many in Italian and quite a few in English.  I liked the quote featured in the picture below so much I had to share it with you (click on the photo to read).  The restaurant is very warm and inviting with nice high ceiling and wide-plank wood floors.

Clever Sayings

Once you’ve figured out what you want to eat (which is a bit trial and error) your meal is then prepared fresh before your eyes by skilled chefs at one of several stations.  These include hand-tossed pizza and antipasti, fresh made pasta, and salads.  There is also a full service bar.  Vapiano is a world-wide success with 70 restaurants around the globe and another 100, that’s right 100, planned to open soon.

Tonight I ordered a specialty pizza just the way I like it and the crust was thin, crunchy and really quite good.  I paired the pizza with the Sauvignon Blanc I’ve talked about before called Fire Road from New Zealand (pleasantly surprised they had it at the well stocked bar).  My daughter ordered the Chicken Alfredo and shared just ONE bite because she was feeling quite territorial about it.  I understood why after I savored the delicious creamy sauce!

Our delicious meal

We really enjoyed ourselves tonight and Vapiano was just voted “BEST ITALIAN 2011” by Washington City Paper readers and it’s easy to understand why.  With an innovative serving format, including cool technologically savvy “chip cards”, reasonably priced menu, and great tasting food it’s no wonder they’ve become an international success story practically overnight.  Tonight, after seriously chowing down, my daughter complained about her proverbial “food baby.”  As for me, it’s a good thing this restaurant is located below my favorite gym Equinox because I could become a regular! ~Brian

Day 178: Mia's Pizzas

Mia's Pizzas

Mia’s Pizzas is located at 4926 Cordell Avenue in the Woodmont Triangle area.  My first experience here was on a cool, but pleasant fall evening, when we enjoyed some of their wood-fired pizzas on their patio under a colorful umbrella.  The pizza is really good as any pizza should be when the word pizza is in your company name.  Mia, the founder, it turns out is a real person and she actually comes to the restaurant every night to prepare food.  Her pizza menu includes the classic “margherita” – tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala, fresh basil  for $14 as well as the more exotic “the littleneck” – clams in the shell, garlic, capers, spicy sprinkles, parmesan also for $14 and many other favorites in between. There’s a nice mix of salads on the menu as well including insalata mista, chopped romaine, arugula & pear and the classics Ceasar and spinach salads.  We started our order with bruchette with portobello mushrooms, butternut squash and goat cheese that was delicious.  Mia’s also has a decent kids menu with mini pizza, grilled cheese, mac-n-cheese and buttered noodles.  Lastly, don’t forget the dessert.  They’ve caught the cupcake craze and have a “cupcake of the day” or you could choose from chocolate mousee, crème brûlée, chocolate chip pudding or a caramel apple crisp.

Mia's Wine Selections

They have a nice selection of wines including sparkling, rose, white and red wines.  They also have draft and bottled beer as well.  Our choice was the Sauvignon Blanc Fire Road by Marlborough from New Zealand.  I asked a wine connoisseur once why the Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand were so good and I was told that the flavor comes from the “struggle” the grapes have to endure in the climate in New Zealand.  The climate forces the grape vines to work hard to obtain the necessary nutrients and that adds to the intensity of the flavor.   One famous quote I heard about drinking one’s first New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was that it was like having sex for the first time!  Hmmmm.  Not sure about that but If that’s is true I think it should be served in a shot glass instead of a wine glass!  Short and sweet! (I’m gonna hear about this from Amy).

Finally, this is a nice restaurant to visit when the weather is nice.  In fact Bethesda Magazine just featured Mia’s in their latest issue as one of their favorite outdoor eating spots.  Stop by Mia’s and if you see someone having their first Sauvignon Blanc, tell the waiter “I’ll have what she’s having!” ~ Brian

Day 134: Mamma Mia that's some good Italian food!

Mamma Lucia Bethesda on Elm St

Mamma Lucia has been serving Bethesda good old fashioned Italian food since 2001 at 4916 Elm Street.  Known for  great pizza with hand-tossed, New York Style crust and generous portions of cheese and other toppings, Mamma Lucia is popular for lunch by-the-slice or dinner for the whole pie!  Of course, they offer so much more than simply good pizza.  Like any good, full-service down home Italian restaurant, they offer a complete menu of pasta dishes of all kinds, chicken, veal, seafood, insalatas and more, plus full catering for 20-200 and carry out menus too.

Compared to other Bethesda-area restaurants, Mamma Lucia is quite reasonably priced and offers a casual, kid-friendly atmosphere.  This is not to suggest that it’s a kid’s hangout.  There is a well equipped bar to serve the adults too!  The Italian cuisine is offered in abundantly-sized portions so plan on taking home a doggy bag or at the very least, wear loose pants!

It’s often easier and quicker to get a table at Mamma Lucia than other area restaurants – perhaps because much of their business is of the take-out variety and they have a large number of tables – both indoors and outside.  The staff is typically very friendly which makes for a nice experience overall.  Come casual and relax as you enjoy your meal.

Owners Bruno and Jimmy call themselves “Mamma’s Boys” and can often be found at any of their 9 Mamma Lucia locations making sure that everything is done the way “Mamma” would want it!  You can see their complete menu at the Mamma Lucia website.  Don’t miss “Pasta Night” on Mondays from 5 PM – 10 PM.  When you buy one entree you get another for only $3.99 – dine in or carry out.  Tuesdays they offer “Pizza Night” from 3 PM – 10 PM – CARRY OUT ONLY.  When you buy one pizza you get another for $2.99.  My pick is often the white pizza!  But what else would you expect from a self-professed cheese-a-holic?         ~Amy 

Day 124: Flippin' Pizza

Flippin' Pizza

I love pizza.  I survived on pizza in college and so a good pizza always reminds me of a simpler time in my life when the joys of ordering and enjoying a hot pizza, especially late at night, were unsurpassed.  Flippin’ Pizza, located at 10400 Old Georgetown Road in the Georgetown Square shopping center is a new but expanding franchise with four locations in California, four in Virginia, three in Maryland and two locations in D.C.

The company touts itself as an “old school real honest pie.”  The “I’m from Booklyn and you’re not” kinda pizza! The company says the secret to their great tasting pizza starts with great dough.  They make it fresh daily with no added oil, sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  The dough is thin and airy.  They use whole milk mozzarella and the freshest toppings available.  It’s a crowded field in the pizza arena and the proverbial 800 pound gorilla, Domino’s pizza, has retooled and ramped up to meet the growing competition like Flippin’ pizza.  But hey (read with Brooklyn accent), if you gots the goods ain’t nobody gonna stop ya!  Flippin’ pizza tastes great.

Thin Crust Pizza

Flippn' Pizza Truck

One of the things that caught my attention in the parking lot was the Flippin’ Pizza mobile pizza truck.  This rolling pizza RV serves up fresh pizza on the go for your birthday, office, school or sporting event.  Great idea for fundraisers as well as Flippin’ pizza contributes 50% of revenues from the event to the cause.  So stop by and find out why Flippin’ pizza was voted “Best Pizza in DC” by Washingtonian Magazine.  ~Brian