Success Stories

Nittany Pizza

Within its eclectic college neighborhood, Nittany Pizza is known among York, PA, locals for great traditional pizza and is also popular among the area’s tightknit vegan community. Since owner Anathanasios “Tom” Drivas first added especially flavorful vegan options to his traditional menu a decade ago, sales in both categories have steadily grown. In fact, vegan items now account for a full 25% of Tom’s sales.

In many areas, a small but growing number of consumers face a variety of dietary limitations. When friends or family with multiple “dining styles” gather, finding mutually agreeable eateries where even “alternate” dishes taste awesome can be a challenge. One such place is Nittany Pizza.

Tom’s secret to winning over vegan tastebuds is exactly the same as attracting traditional eaters – making each dish its most exceptionally flavorful…period. Tom’s inspiration for adding really flavorful vegan dishes to his “traditional” menu came from growing up in a strictly Greek Orthodox family. Meat was a staple five days a week. However, on meatless Wednesday and Friday “fast days,” Tom helped his mother prepare equally flavorful meals entirely from plant-based ingredients. In the Drivas’ home, separate cooking pans and implements kept “fast day” dietary separations complete.

Understanding that many vegans have similar sensitivities about avoiding ingredient “cross-contact,” Tom lets guests know that his vegan offerings are prepped with their own dedicated cooking utensils, prep surfaces, and even half his grill.

Beyond sourcing 100% plant-based ingredients for that menu portion, Tom constantly upgrades their quality and flavor, regardless of cost. Whenever new vegan ingredient brands become available, Tom conducts blind side-by-side tastings with key guests. Without revealing which ingredient type is being compared, Tom serves them pairs of bite-sized samples of finished dishes made identically with competing brands. Only when new versions are broadly preferred does Tom upgrade.

Another secret to Tom’s success is that he tastefully promotes all his vegan “baked to order” sandwiches together in their own menu section. To non-vegans, the difference may seem subtle. But especially for potential guests previewing his menu online, seeing vegan-friendly items treated as “house specialties” rather than menu afterthoughts (“Vegan options available”) provides them greater confidence in giving Tom’s place a try.

Another reason why Tom’s “baked to order” sandwiches are especially popular with all customers is that bread always tastes best warm from the oven. To maximize bread freshness, his oven-hot “sub rolls” are actually oblong doughy flatbreads parbaked in advance. Then, as soon as a sandwich is ordered, the flatbread pops into the pizza oven for a minute, before being wrapped longwise around the sandwich fillings. Not only does the hot bread smell and taste heavenly, its warmth also helps the aroma of sandwich contents “bloom” as well.

Nittany Pizza is far from 100% vegan. But finding truly flavorful ways to accommodate specialized dietary preferences including vegan has helped Tom attract an especially loyal, diverse customer base!