Big Nonna’s—a vegan ice cream parlor and pizza shop—is scheduled to open in Austin, TX in October. The shop is a collaborative effort between two local businesses: mainstay vegan ice cream shop Sweet Ritual and pizza trailer Lil’ Nonna’s Pizzeria. The idea of combining vegan pizzas and ice cream in one shop arose several years ago when Sweet Ritual co-founder Amelia Raley and Lil’ Nonna’s owner Robbie Lordi became friends at ATX Veg*n Food Business Owners, a meetup for local business owners. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the two businesses differently, with Sweet Ritual having to close for a portion of the lockdown with reduced sales and Lil’ Nonna’s experiencing a boost in business necessitating an expansion into a brick-and-mortar restaurant. “The collaboration between Sweet Ritual and Li’l Nonna’s creates a space where people can gather to celebrate life’s little rituals—like date nights and birthdays,” Raley told VegNews. “We’re seeing a demand for comfort foods that go hand in hand—like pizza and shakes. We’re also seeing a demand for entire cuisines to be veganized, which is why we’re framing traditional Italian pizzas, pasta, and gelato from the perspective of from-scratch vegan cooking.”

Big Nonna’s menu—which include appetizers, salads, and pizzas—will feature house-made beet-based pepperoni, house-aged vegan cheeses made from pumpkin seeds, and scratch-made ranch. The restaurant will also offer Sweet Ritual’s ice cream made from a variety of bases such as coconut, soy, and nut butters such as almond, peanut, and sunflower seeds. Big Nonna’s will also offer a separate gluten-free and soy-free menu. 

Lil’ Nonna’s first opened in 2017 as a vegetarian pizza trailer but Lordi transitioned the menu to be fully vegan last year. “Vegetarianism is obsolete,” Lordi told VegNews. “There is no such thing as ethical vegetarianism, and I say this as someone who was vegetarian for over 20 years before finally going fully vegan a couple years ago. People do not go vegetarian anymore. People go vegan.”

The 1,300-square-foot shop will be open for curbside pickup initially (with delivery to North Austin) with plans to expand to dine-in services when COVID-19 guidelines allow. Lil’ Nonna’s will also continue to operate as a pizza trailer while Sweet Ritual will continue doing business at its brightly decorated Austin shop.

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