Subway: Brown, Purple (rush hrs) to Diversey(773) 904-7984 vapianointernational.com41.929784 -87.642897 2577 N Clark St (at Wrightwood Ave) Lincoln Park, Chicago
Lunch, dinnerAverage main course: $10
Walk into this outpost of the international Italian chain (Chicago’s first of multiple) and you’re pointed to a line of chefs. These chefs (divided among pasta, panini, pizza and antipasti stations) will make the food you order as you wait and watch; when they’re done, you put the food on a tray and take it to a table. This system could be called “quasi-instant gratification”—the lines for pasta can be slow, but even then, you get your food in 15 minutes or less. As for the quality of that food, the pesto pasta and ham-and-cheese panini are on par with the best cafeteria food around—which is to say, not as exciting as normal restaurant fare, but not too bad, either.