Living Vegan In Charlotte, NC

A Vegan Surprise at Buca di Beppo

What's A Pasta Like You Doing In A Place Like This?

What’s A Pasta Like You Doing In A Place Like This?

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.

Jimmy and Helen - 50 Years of Marriage!

Jimmy and Helen – 50 Years of Marriage!

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!”

Buca di Beppo Pasta Puttanesca

The small green things are capers, not peas. And the kidney bean looking thing is actually a kalamata olive.

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.

Buca di Beppo on Urbanspoon

UPDATE 05/13/2015:

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!

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Categorised in: Italian Cuisine, Restaurant Reviews

13 Responses »

  1. Thanks for this post. Its nice of BdB to have customized the dish for you. many restaurants dont do that willingly. I wish every restaurant would have at least couple of vegan options on their menu. I am a vegetarian but I don’t eat cheese, sometimes its so hard to find a decent meal especially while dining out with friends at steak houses.

    • Steak houses are the worst! Yes, they were very nice about customization but I was also amazed that they had this “standby” vegan option that wasn’t on the menu! Maybe it’s just this Pineville location or maybe it’s all BdB’s … but what a pleasant surprise when I went in expecting the worst!

  2. Thank you for this! I’m going to a BdB in NYC this week for a dear friend’s birthday and was trying to figure out what my partner and I (grateful I have someone with whom to split my vegan trough) can eat. Was planning on the marinara if the pasta was vegan, which I was guessing it would be. A wealth of useful info all around and much appreciated!

  3. I just requsted BdB add this dish to the Las Vegas Location where I live. Its ALAWAYS nice to see Vegan options on the menu.

  4. I recently found myself at BdB in Chicago. I informed our waiter that I was Vegan. He told me he will ask the cook what I can order. He also informed me that he used to be vegetarian and he will look out for me. I have asked him if they can prepare pasta puttanesca. He came back a short while later and told me that there is really not much they can offer that do not contain any animal products. All of their pasta has butter and / or eggs. He did offer that they can make me a sautéed vegetable medley, which is garlic and oil, and then broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, and spinach. I accepted their offer and have told him that I really appreciate that he really dug deep to find what’s in the ingredients. Oh same goes for their bread, it has eggs and butter.

    • Thank you for writing, and I’m glad they made a dish for you. However, I tend to believe your waiter was new/misinformed. When I emailed BdB Corporate Office, they stated their vegan options as spaghetti marinara (which is even listed on their website as a vegan option) or I could substitute penne or whole wheat penne for the spaghetti noodles. I really find it hard to believe that all of their pasta noodles would have eggs and dairy, given the high rate of allergies – especially among children. Even restaurants who make their own pasta typically keep some egg free, dried pasta on hand for those with allergies.

      I believe the other options recommended were sauteed green beans and the usual “salads with oil and vinegar dressing, without cheese.” I believe your waiter was correct about the bread containing dairy.

      Of course, ingredients can change and I’ve contacted Buca di Beppo Corporate again concerning the ingredients in the noodles. I will let you know their response.

  5. Hi Catherine – I went to BdB site and could not find this info, “spaghetti marinara (which is even listed on their website as a vegan option).” It is very difficult to find any information about what goes on their meal.

    I went over to Olive Garden just to see if they had vegan option (I have never been to Olive Garden). To my surprise they had an extensive list of what is available for Vegan and Vegetarian.

    Click to access olive-garden-veg-vegan_042015.pdf

    I was also very surprise that Olive Garden’s marinara sauce was not Vegan. Anyhow, I hope you don’t find me a pain, I’m just making sure that we can rely on each other where to eat a true Vegan meal when we find ourselves out and about. Keep up the great work and hard work you do for all of us.

    • Of course you’re not a pain. I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner, but BDP got back to me within 4 business hours! Here’s what they had to say

      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 their pasta noodles except for their fettucini are vegan. And their marinara sauce is vegan. As, I’m sure, the special puttanesca sauce they made for me as a vegan option.

      I really don’t find Olive Garden to have an extensive list of vegan options. It’s just their pasta noodles, kids tomato sauce, and steamed broccoli.

  6. Ordered this today. Next time I would omit the bell peppers.

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