Buona's vegan take on a Chicago classic brings all the flavors of a true Italian beef sandwich

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It might look, smell, and even dip and drip like Italian beef, but you won't find any meat in this new sandwich.

"It's made of seitan, which is a wheat-based protein that allowed us to replicate our original Italian beef the best we can for people that prefer vegan options," said Joe Buonavolanto III with The Buona Companies.

If anyone would take on such a challenge, it would be the Buonavolanto family.

For the last four decades, their Buona Beef family recipe has been delighting Chicagoland tummies.

However, for the last two years or so, they've been trying something new. They believe they've found a way to imitate the classic Italian beef flavor, texture and gravy for a brand new Italian beefless sandwich.

"Italian beef is typically sliced very thin," Buonavolanto. "It sits in gravy where you get a lot of the flavors that you taste on a regular beef sandwich like garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, etc."

Buonavolanto said his grandfather gave the thumbs up and early reviews suggest customers will too.

"We wanted to stay true to our family roots," he said.

"It's definitely a little chewier but it's still got the same flavor," said customer Renzo Mullany.

And in true Italian beef fashion, the juice is all over the bread - arguably the most important part is if it's making a mess this one lives up to expectations.

Mullany said he likes to eat vegan sometimes to be healthier so this sandwich hit the spot.

"I've just been for a run so I feel less guilty," he said.

As for Italian beef purists who might call this sacrilege?

"It probably is to people from Chicago, but I'm not from Chicago," Mullany said.

Buona's beefless sandwich is available at all locations starting Monday.
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