306 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC | Directions 2751635.912037 -79.059984
Mon. - Sun. 12am - 10pm
Bad service – Went here with friends and enjoyed the food, but found out the next day that the waitress overcharged my debit card by $45. I had to call the owner/manager every day for the next two weeks to get him to finally call his bank and fix the error. He never even apologized for the error or the inconvenience. Apparently he doesn't think it's important to treat students as valuable customers in a college town??
BE CAREFUL!!!! – for $10.99 i received a dish of pasta with tomato sauce that was very watered down, and lacked flavor. when i remarked about this to the waitress she stated that that was her favorite part, the sauce was light so you could taste the pasta. the sauce wasn't light!!! it was runny and watered down, this usually happens when the cook doesn't drain the past properly before mixing in the sauce, thus excess water gets in the dish. of course as always to top things off when you have a bad experience it get's worse. the waitress didn't know how to operate the credit card system and posted 5, let me repeat 5 separate holds on my account. so if you venture here for dinner, avoid the pasta, and whatever you do, don't let them touch your credit card!!! after trying to run my card 5 times, her solution, write down my card number on a sheet of paper and try running it manually again????
An Impeccable Dining Experience – I am a student at the University of North Carolina and I have visited Vespa Restaurant on multiple occassions, never having left wanting. The atmosphere is one of a kind, and the staff makes you feel truly welcome. In my most recent visit, my waitress was extremely polite and knowledgable of their wines and menu. Not only is the food fresh and beautifully presented, the courses themselves are innovative spins on traditional Italian dishes. The chefs mix Mediterrean and Middle Eastern entrees into their menu, making for an even more exciting and pleasant experience. On a previous visit, I was a member of a group of 25 adults and students that utilized Vespa's back room, and ordered off of a fixed menu of the chef's design. It was a perfect evening, with perfect service, and I fully recommend Vespa Restaurant to anyone seeking an impeccable dining experience.
I wouldn't recommend it. – If you're a student looking for somewhere nice for your parents to take you, or just want some fine Italian cuisine, don't go here. The food is surprisingly disappointing. I don't understand how the place stays open, much less how some give it stellar review (maybe the quality has declined over the years?). I tried the gnocchi as well as the penne with salmon. The gnocchi was mushy and light, like raw bread dough boiled in water. The sauce was soupy and flavorless. As for the penne... there was hardly any salmon, the pasta was once again overcooked, and the sauce was more water than anything. To say there is room for improvement in the food quality is woefully understated. Please save your money, or go somewhere worth the price tag.
Rude manager, so-so food – We purchased a promotional certificate to dine here, and I've never tried it. The meal was average and the service was slow. We attempted to give the staff our promotional certificate after dinner (for $20 off food--which again, we purchased for $15), they were extremely rude and said they would make no money on us if they accepted it. They said to come back when we wanted to spend more money. He said we can't use the certificate during lunch, before 6 on evenings, or brunch because the menu is cheaper and he expects for his customers to spend more money when they are getting a discount. It did not matter to him that we were first-time customers, purchased the certificate and really were only getting a $5 discount, or did not wish to return. It also did not matter to him that the fine print on the certificate did not state any of this (I checked first to be sure). He was rude and I will not return.
Italian food with a twist – I used to frequent this restaurant when I first moved here in 2002, as the food was creative and delicious, and the ambiance was enjoyable. In 2005 I moved further east, so I haven't been back until recently. I was surprised to read the other reviews on here because we felt that our visit was just as enjoyable as it was years ago. The waitstaff was exceptionally enthusiastic and friendly (we left saying "wow that guy loves his job!"), and the food was terrific. My favorite dish was the polenta funghi appetizer. The polenta was incredibly creamy and fluffy, the red wine sauce was almost plate-licking worthy, and the mushrooms and the sweet peppers complemented the dish well. I think the size of the dishes could be toned down a bit, although we had enough food for lunch the next day. The waiter told us how their current head chef is from Turkey, so he likes to shake up the traditional Italian with his Turkish influences, which is an interesting twist, even to someone like me who is of Italian heritage. My only negative comment is that their bathrooms are in dire need of a renovation; they had a funky mold-like smell. I would definitely visit this restaurant again if I'm ever in the area!
Not what it used to be – I first tried Vespa in 2006. Perfect pasta, heavenly asparagus, lovely presentation, pleasant wait staff. By perfect pasta, I mean that the bite and flavor were perfect, the cream sauce delicate, the 4 or 5 stalks of asparagus perfectly cut and arrayed and shining with flavor, fresh peas. I was impressed and I loved it.
I tried Vespa again in 2009. Pasta was smothered. The plate looked like a heap of garbage. It appeared that the cream sauce had just started to break. My fellow diner's ravioli stuck in the teeth. The desserts (tiramisu and chocolate semifreddo) were scooped out of pans and slapped onto the plates with lakes and globs of sauces that overpowered the desserts themselves. The ladyfingers in the tiramisu were over-soaked in a tasteless coffee syrup. The filling was not grainy but lacked flavor and richness. Between 2006 and 2009 I had stopped into Vespa with friends just for dessert. We had profiteroles - they were good but the pastry cream was still frozen inside.
I had a cappuccino. I thought surely in an Italian restaurant.... Cappuccino should be 1/3 coffee, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 bubbly, frothy foam. This cappuccino was lukewarm, probably 2/3 milk and there was a film of spent foam on top. Even if what I was served was a poorly made latte, the size of the cup suggested that they meant to make a cappuccino.
I feel that I can give an informed review as I have been to culinary school for baking and pastry and have worked in a top-notch coffee shop in a metropolitan city. I can't help but feel insulted by Vespa. I will not go there again. I will be going to Italy in a few weeks from now. I know that once I've been there, my 2009 experience at Vespa will appear to be all the more pathetic.
Recommended for atmosphere (romantic) but not the service (pushy) or the food (below average at best). – I've lived in Chapel Hill for over 20 years so I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable about the local restaurant scene. My recent experience at Vespa confirmed what I have always felt about the restaurant, and what I have heard others mention as well; that the staff seem somewhat pushy to get you in and then get you out, and that the food itself was not very good.
Let me preface by saying that my date and I were one of three groups of people seated in the restaurant at about 6:15. Our waiter was great, but when we were given the wine list another manager-type person came over and offered to help us out on our wine selection. He repeatedly told us that they were "out" of many of the items on the per-glass menu and I felt he was a little pushy trying to get us to purchase a bottle. They only had two types of wine from italy by the glass, in an italian restaurant?
The bread arrived and it was cold, dry, and not tasty whatsoever. Not a big deal, I suppose.
Then the food arrived; I got the Gnocchi and my date got the Fetuccini Primavera. Mine was almost cold, heavy, and almost tasteless. My date's meal was better (she said she liked it) but I personally thought she was being polite (I thought it was average at best). I didn't think it was worth the price we paid by any means.
I recommend Vespa for the atmosphere (romantic) but definitely NOT the service (pushy) or the food (below average).
Al Dente Pasta!! – This is the only reasonably-priced restaurant in the area where I can find the pasta cooked just right at
al dente!! A friend of my recommended this restaurant as one of her Italian friends' favorites.
However, their outdoor dining space is not the best as it's almost on the sidewalk or in the parking lot.
Some words from a regular... – The absolute strongpoint, and reason that I go back to this restaurant again and again, is the ease with which you can make it your own.
At Vespa you won?t find the large sterile environment of a mega service restaurant; it?s much more romantic. The ambience is beautifully Italian, with Mediterranean colors, classic movie posters, a brilliant copper bar and a gorgeous garden for outside dining. The lighting gives the place an intimate feel, which is great for sharing a bottle of wine.
With respect to the staff, I consider it a pleasure to know them all by name (I admit I come here a lot). The manager is a great guy who is very quick to show his appreciation with a glass of moscato and a smile, and the small group of servers is always courteous. The owner Marlo is a true Italian who can be very charming and an interesting addition to the meal if you?re lucky enough to catch him. I also suggest eating at the bar, the bartender is a very magnetic guy. They really treat their regulars well.
To top it off, the food is wonderful. While their menu doesn?t change, the specials always do, and they can include some excellent homemade pasta. The gnocchi, by the way, is second to none, as are the calamari and mussel appetizers.
To conclude, I think this is a very special place. With respect to the rancorously bad reviews, I can only think that it reflects the quality of the customer rather than the quality of the restaurant.
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