“Cold cuts are not the most interesting flavors in the world,” admits Louie Catizone, founder of Louie’s Luncheonette, a new direct-to-consumer plant-based deli meat company slated to launch in July. However, when the lifelong meat eater went veg in 2016, the Italian American guy from North Jersey really missed sandwiches, and ended up with much more flavorful, vegan versions of his lifelong favorites.
As a co-owner of Greenpoint’s aperitivo company St. Agrestis (233 Eagle St.) (along with Matt and Steven DeAngelo of Greenhook Ginsmiths (208 Dupont St.), Catizone was familiar with the food business. As he tested his own recipes for vegan ham and turkey-free turkey, he realized that the concept may become a business pursuit of its own.
Enter a global pandemic, the major shutdown of restaurants, St. Agrestis’ losing 60% of its revenue streams and suddenly Louie’s Luncheonette, a vegan deli concept, becomes a reality. Instead of laying off staff, Catzione and his team focused on allocating their work towards the new venture, which is completely separate from their spirits company. Catzione’s home kitchen recipe testing moved to a local commercial kitchen, where he finalized Louie’s initial deli offerings.
“I overthought the shit out of the process,” Catizone says of recreating his favorite meats. Using non-GMO, 100% vegan products, he’s created deli-style turkey, ham, pepperoni, and barbecue chicken from vital wheat gluten, garbanzo flour and natural flavors derived from fresh or dried vegetables.
“I had some meat eaters put it up against the actual meat versions, and they said [mine] was more flavorful,” Catizone says. The neighborhood agrees: A pop-up sandwich shop in the window of Dolly’s Swing and Dive (101 Kent Ave.) sold out of $10 vegan sandwiches in under three hours, and another is slated for Saturday, June 27th.
In July, Louie’s Luncheonette will start selling meats online, something Catizone saw was possible during a pandemic where fresh products can be successfully shipped from NYC to LA in just two days. Eventually, the brand may expand to local retail and catering, so office managers can offer a satisfying vegan sandwich tray instead of the usually disappointing non-meat options. Bodegas may also be a natural fit for the brand, but while we’re still waiting six feet apart from everyone in line for a sandwich, Louie’s will focus on online, DTC sales and a subscription model, so a pound of plant-based ham can be delivered to your doorstep weekly.