How in the world do two vegans wind up in a place like Buca di Beppo?
For those that aren’t familiar with Buca di Beppo, it’s an American chain restaurant serving “fresh, authentic Italian food – family style.”
Of course, it’s really only America’s idea of “authentic Italian food” – if everyone in Italy really ate this way, the entire country would be clinically obese!
BdB’s menu is decidely meat-centric and almost everything offered is drenched in oil, butter, cream, and multiple cheeses.
Family style means you can’t order a single entree – food is served in either a small or large trough for everyone to share.
To be fair, BdB is not the only restaurant I’ve been to that has – ahem! – “little” to offer vegans. I’ve also dined at Zebra (the foie gras capital of Charlotte, NC), Brazilian steakhouses, fish camps, and BBQ joints.
How do I, as a vegan, wind up in these places? I wind up there because I have a life. I have family, friends, workplace functions, client meetings. I don’t always have the luxury of choosing the venue.
In this particular case, my partner and I had been invited to celebrate the 50th(!) wedding anniversary of our dear friends and neighbors, Jimmy and Helen. Actually, calling them “dear friends” is disrespectful – they’re more like extended family. We’ve shared birthdays, holidays with them. So I wasn’t going because of the food. I was going to show my love and respect for them.
As always, I googled the menu beforehand and with a sigh resigned myself to probably a green salad, perhaps some green beans or broccoli with butter, and maybe some pasta with marinara sauce – IF the marinara sauce was dairy-free.
Our young waiter confirmed my analysis of the menu. I was in the act of negotiating a small trough of pasta with marinara sauce and lots of crushed red pepper flakes. Beside me, my partner was rolling his eyes and making gagging noises.
And then … A more experienced waitress overheard us.
“Hey!” She knelt down by our table. “One thing we can make for you, that’s not on the menu, is a dish called pasta puttanesca. It would be waaaaay more flavorful than the marinara sauce. It has …”
I knew what pasta puttanesca was. It’s one of my favorite pastas (check out my recipe) and it’s also just about the only pasta dish my partner will eat.
I didn’t need to hear another word. “We’ll take it!”
To be honest, it wasn’t the best pasta puttanesca I’ve ever had (a tad bit too oily) but it was still pretty amazing, and much better than anything I ever dreamed of eating at BdB. I mean, who’d have thunk?
The puttanesca consisted of tomatoes, onions, green peppers, lots of garlic, whole black kalamata olives, whole green olives, and capers, served over penne. And yes, it tasted VERY fresh!
It must have been good …
Because we finished our trough.
I’m going to encourage Buca di Beppo to add this to their menu as regular menu item. There’s no need to label it “vegan.” I’m sure a significant number of their clientele would be glad of a healthier (and lower cal!) option. Join me … send a message to customer service requesting this be a regular menu item, or leave a comment on their Facebook page.
So, if you are in Charlotte, NC, and you find yourself at Buca di Beppo (right beside Carolina Place mall) … know that this is one incredible vegan dish they can make for you.
And if you find yourself at a Buca di Beppo outside of Charlotte – show them this blog post. Tell ’em that’s what BdB’s vegan Charlotte patrons can order, and then request the same for yourself.
Believe me, you won’t regret it.
A reader recently wrote me with concerns. He/she said they had dined at a Bucca di Beppo in Chicago, and when asked to make the pasta puttanesca, the waiter told him/her all their pasta noodles contained eggs and/or dairy. The restaurant wound up making a dish of sauteed vegetables for this customer.
Concerned, I emailed Corporate and (unlike Tupelo Honey) had a response in less than four business hours.
Good Morning Catherine,
Thank you for contacting Buca di Beppo. Please know that our fettuccini is the only pasta that contains eggs and none of them contain dairy. And our marinara sauce is vegan. We hope this information was helpful and look forward to celebrating with you soon!
So, all pasta noodles except fettucini are vegan, marinara sauce is vegan, and also any special sauces/dishes they make to your specifications … such as the pasta puttanesca!