If you took Leo’s Pasta Palette station and added Euro-chic furniture, ingredients like shaved fennel and a Frank Sinatra soundtrack, then you have Vapiano. Forget your momma-made-the-meatball Italian restaurant chain originated with German entrepreneurs, mixing fresh Italian classics with Deutsch efficiency.


Ordering is very much like the process in the cafeteria — you choose which pasta, meat, vegetables and sauce you want. In lieu of a GOCard, the cook hands you a white plastic chip card with your order for when you check out.


But the fast-food eatery doesn’t scrimp on style; their own homemade pasta is kneaded and stretched behind the counter. Vapiano features the standards like Alfredo, carbonara and pesto, as well as some more exotic takes s­uch as tacchino piccante, a pasta and chicken dish with orange chili sauce,bok choy and bell peppers.


But opting for the basics, in my case, proves satisfying as well. (The pomodoro e rucola includes a moderate portion of curly pasta accented with a light, summery tomato sauce and wilted arugula with just enough of a peppery bite.)


Aside from pasta, the other main draw is the hand-tossed pizzas, which like the pasta feature the usual margherita, salame, verdure (veggie pizza) as well as American-Italian favorites like chicken pesto and chicken barbeque. Instead of choosing one of these, my friend treated herself to a custom cheese pizza with garlic­. Simple but satisfying, she noted that the cheese had the right amount ofmelty-stringy goodness and said she’d return.


While Italian purists may scoff at the fast-food concept, for a college student the prices are reasonable (ranging from $8.95 to $11.95 for pizzas and pasta dishes), but the trendy atmosphere doesn’t feel cheap. Potted basil plants line the large, communal tables and keep the modern vibe fresh.

For this cheap college student (with an elitist appreciation of arugula), it’s a great place for an outing with a large group of friends on a Friday night.

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