Who are these people? Last night (Sept. 7) was the invitation-only grand opening party for Vapiano on 4900 Hampden Lane, and the place was full of women in tiny dresses and big heels. Along with the swarthy men in expensive suits, they looked like VIP props.

The casual Italian chain restaurant, one of three places to open on Bethesda Row last week, offers reasonably-priced versions of the three p’s—pizza, pasta and Panini. The service is cafeteria-style, and there are lots of stools and interesting seating nooks (including tables with a tree sprouting out of the middle).

As for the food, I liked the fact that it’s not heavy or laden with olive oil, as in the thin-crusted, lightly-topped pizza, which is addictively easy to eat. The two pasta dishes I tried were so-so; the chicken Alfredo was pretty standard, and the tacchino piccante, campanelle with chicken breast, orange-chili sauce, bok choy and bell peppers, seemed better suited for a Chinese restaurant, minus the pasta. Plus, it was way too spicy, and I’m no red pepper wuss.