Famous Chicago Chain Buona Unveils a Fully Vegan Italian Sandwich

|Updated Apr 28, 2021
Instagram / @buonabeef

Chicago’s original Italian beef chain Buona revealed a shocking new menu item that brings plant-based meat to the restaurant’s typically meat-heavy menu. The new Plant-Based Italian Beefless Sandwich will debut across the company’s 24 locations to bring all consumers one of Chicago’s cultural favorites. Buona teamed up with Chicago-based meat alternative brand Upton’s Natural to develop the seitan-based plant-based meat that will give vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian customers an easy and delicious option when visiting any of the restaurants.

Upton’s Naturals is known for its seitan products, which are used as the beef substitute in the legendary brand's sandwich. The plant-based meat is flavored to mirror Italian beef, giving the sandwich the proper depth and authenticity of the real thing. The Plant-Based Italian Beefless Sandwich will also be rich in protein, carrying a hefty 43 grams per sandwich. The plant-based beef will be joined on the sandwich by a new signature vegan gravy, Buona’s French Bread, and finally hot or mild giardiniera.

“While Buona is known for our Original Italian Beef, we wanted to expand our plant-based menu options to serve the growing number of vegans and vegetarians who join their families at our restaurants. We wanted something that felt true to our establishments, menu offering, and family recipes, which is why we decided to use our signature dish as inspiration,” Director of Marketing at Buona Candice Jordan said. “We all felt Upton’s Naturals was the best fit as a partner [and] we’re excited to be one of the first multi-unit restaurants able to offer an authentic plant-based Italian ‘beefless’ sandwich.”

The Plant-Based Italian Beefless Sandwich will be available for Chicagoans who have been with Buona since 1981. The trademark sandwich shop across Chicago will also give new customers the ability to order something plant-based, allowing tourists a fuller and more authentic Chicago experience. At all 24 locations, the new sandwich will be available for $7.99 for a limited time.

“When vegans go out to eat they crave the same variety and savory meal options as anyone, just without the meat to go with it,” Founder of Upton’s Naturals Dan Staackmann said. “There so much opportunity to serve the community of people embracing a plant-based diet, which stretches far beyond having a vegan burger on the menu. The Buona Beef family understands that, and with our slices of seitan, we’re so happy to be able to support them is a 100% vegan take on the traditional Italian beef sandwich to Chicago."

The release of the Plant-Based Italian Beefless Sandwich comes on the heels of another typically meat-centric regional chain’s decision to phase in a plant-based option. Nathan’s Famous – the Coney Island hot dog chain – recently debuted its first vegan hot dog, shocking fans and exciting plant-based consumers that can eat at the classic hot dog restaurant. The two regionally famous companies moving forward with plant-based products signals to consumers that other iconic brands can be expected to follow in that example.