Buona launching plant-based Italian beefless sandwich

The vegetarian- and vegan-friendly seitan meat sandwich mimics its classic Original Buona Beef counterpart, except for the main ingredient.

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On Monday, April 26, Chicago’s Buona is releasing a new Plant-Based Italian Beefless Sandwich at all 24 of its locations.  | Emma Bice of Buona

Chicago’s Buona is offering a plant-based, beefless sandwich.

Emma Bice/Buona

Where’s the beef?

It’s not in the latest sandwich offering from Buona.

The iconic Chicago purveyor of beef sandwiches is adding a plant-based Italian beefless sandwich to its restaurant menu starting Monday.

The vegetarian- and vegan-friendly seitan meat sandwich mimics its classic Original Buona Beef counterpart, except for the main ingredient. Everything from the vegetable-based gravy and bread to Buona’s iconic giardiniera was already vegan. The new sandwich retails for $7.99 (available only in the 7-inch size) and is now on the menu at all 24 Buona locations for a limited time.

“The sandwich is the result of a partnership with Upton’s Natural, a locally based creator of seitan,” said Candice Jordan, director of marketing for Buona.

“We have separate production area where we make the ‘beef’ and seasoned vegan gravy on site at our main distribution center, and then it is sent to each of our locations, which now have their own vegan production area.”

To ensure there’s no cross-contamination, each location kitchen utilizes different utensils, different packaging and the vegan products are “100-percent separated from everything else” in the kitchen, she noted.

“It’s been almost two years of development to bring it to fruition. We went through a lot of flavorings until we got it right and the [Buona] family helped make sure the vegan sandwich was up to their authentic recipe.” The company, based in Berwyn, was founded 40 years ago by the Buonavolanto family.

Jordan said the sandwich is marketed to both vegans looking for more options on the menu (which already features salads, a traditional Caprese sandwich, and grilled salmon) and meatlovers looking for something new to try.

“We wanted to create a cool option and bring our authentic Chicago beef experience to vegans, while also offering a new sandwich to everyone, from traditional meat-eaters to anyone who might have dietary restrictions.”

The restaurant testmarketed the sandwich with “a lot of Buona family members,” so the roll-out will be an eye-opener for customers and the company alike.

“It does feel a bit like we’re putting ketchup on a hot dog,” Jordan said with a chuckle, “but again, we’re not [abandoning] our roots. We’re still a diehard Italian beef sandwich company for beef sandwich eaters.”

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