Red Sauce How Italian Food Became American

A Look Back at the Burger King “Veal Parmagiana” Sandwich

By on Wednesday, October 27th, 2021 at 4:15 pm | 18 views

In the late 1970s, Burger King was losing the burger wars. McDonalds had come to dominate fast food on a national level. A number of factors contributed to Burger King lagging behind like poor management and the introduction of burger alternatives didn’t help the situation either.

One of the menu items introduced to test markets around 1980 was the Burger King Veal Parmagiana sandwich. The long, seeded roll had tomato sauce, a veal patty, and mozzarella cheese.

The commercial introducing the specialty sandwich featured a Burger King employee standing over an enormous pot of red sauce. She blows a chef’s kiss and declares it “delizioso!” Another scene includes a young woman leaning out the window of her brownstone apartment while snacking on the sandwich.

The veal parmigiana sandwich was soon engulfed in controversy. One of PETA’s early actions, along with Nellie Shriver, president of the American Vegetarians organization, founded the Boycott Burger King Coalition to protest the restaurant’s veal. As many as 70 different groups formed the coalition to protest outside of the Burger King restaurants selling the veal sandwiches.

The sandwich was also featured in the 1982 ad campaign, “Aren’t You Hungry?” The popular ad series was partially created by James Patterson, the world’s best selling author. It wasn’t enough to save the veal sandwich.

Sales of the sandwich fell by as much as 85%. Burger King eventually discontinued the sandwich, citing a marketing decision rather than the boycott and protest action from the group. One problem with the sandwich might have been that it didn’t taste very good with an undisclosed source revealing to the Washing Post that the more likely reason it was dropped from the menu was it wasn’t a very good sandwich.

By 1983, the Veal Parmagiana sandwich was removed from all but a few menus. Animal rights activists claimed their protesting had worked and pointed to the coalition as a model to organize protests against McDonalds.