When it comes to choosing a restaurant in America, there is no shortage of options. From Mexican to American, pizza to burgers, and of course, Italian, there are countless chain restaurants to satisfy any craving. Among the Italian chains, there is one that stands out from the crowd: Buca Di Beppo.
Those who have had the pleasure of dining at Buca Di Beppo know that it is not your typical Italian joint. With its distinctive charm and ambiance, the restaurant offers a memorable experience. But what many may not know is that the chain was born out of one man’s desire to bring the essence of an old-school Italian joint back home with him.
Phil Roberts, the founder of Buca Di Beppo, became infatuated with the red-sauce joints of the Northeast. Hailing from Minneapolis, he had never encountered anything quite like them. According to Bon Appetit, Roberts described these restaurants as places where “they displayed wealth in the food they served” and where “Christmas lights were kept on all year-round” while velvet paintings of Mount Vesuvius adorned the walls. Inspired by this unique atmosphere, Roberts set out to create a red-sauce joint that could thrive anywhere, thus giving birth to the idea of Buca Di Beppo.
Here are some intriguing facts about this beloved restaurant chain:
Emphasizing Accessible Italian Food
Phil Roberts wanted Buca Di Beppo to stand out as a welcoming and approachable Italian restaurant. Despite the presence of Italian eateries in Minneapolis, he aimed to create a place where no one would feel intimidated.
The Origin of the Name
If you find the name “Buca Di Beppo” unusual, prepare to be surprised—it loosely translates to “my buddy’s basement.” Interestingly, the first Buca Di Beppo location opened in 1993 in the basement of an apartment building in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Although the chain has since expanded to actual buildings, paying homage to its humble beginnings remains an essential aspect.
Family-Style Italian Dining
In contrast to most Italian restaurants, Buca Di Beppo serves its dishes family-style, encouraging sharing among the table. While this might not be ideal for a romantic date night where each person desires their own plate, it has become part of the restaurant’s unique charm.
A Significant Buyout in 2008
In 2008, Buca Di Beppo underwent a major buyout that propelled its growth and success. The chain became part of the Planet Hollywood group after Planet Hollywood purchased Buca Inc. for a staggering $9.7 million. This strategic move allowed Buca Di Beppo to continue expanding and thriving in the restaurant industry.
The Restaurant’s Instant Success
Although Phil Roberts couldn’t have predicted the tremendous success Buca Di Beppo would achieve, the restaurant quickly became popular in Minneapolis. People were willing to wait for hours just to secure a table at this kitschy joint.
The Legendary Meatball
Buca Di Beppo is renowned for its meatballs. Whether served in a sandwich, on a bed of spaghetti, or solo with sauce, their meatballs are a crowd favorite. In a cooking segment with Marie Osmond, a Buca Di Beppo chef revealed that the chain’s signature dish is indeed the meatball. Always homemade and prepared using a secret recipe, these meatballs embody the deliciousness that Buca Di Beppo is known for.
The Intentionally Ugly Interior
One aspect that sets Buca Di Beppo apart from its competitors is its intentionally gaudy and tacky decor. Unlike many other chains striving for elegance, Buca Di Beppo embraces a deliberately ugly interior. Founder Phil Roberts took pride in a customer’s remark about a “god-awful piece of Roman revival statuary” and the subsequent comment, “I would never have a piece like that in my house!” The intentionally tacky decor adds to the restaurant’s charm and ensures a memorable experience.
Not Striving for Authenticity
While one might assume that Buca Di Beppo, inspired by old-school red-sauce joints, aims for authenticity, that is not the case. In contrast to their counterparts in Italy or even other Italian restaurants in America, Buca Di Beppo does not strive for strict authenticity. Instead, they embrace their unique concept, focusing on recreating the red-sauce joint experience.
Weathering Financial Challenges
Despite its humble beginnings, Buca Di Beppo faced significant financial difficulties in the mid-2000s. However, the chain managed to overcome these challenges and continued its journey toward becoming a profitable and successful business.
A Haven for Celebrities
Buca Di Beppo boasts a star-studded clientele. Countless celebrities have frequented the chain restaurant since its inception. A simple search for “celebrities at Buca Di Beppo” reveals numerous images of famous personalities enjoying their Italian meals. Notably, “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Dorit Kemsley partnered with Buca Di Beppo to redecorate one of their party rooms, the Capri Room, which was featured on the Bravo show. Buca Di Beppo has managed to carve a unique place in the American restaurant landscape. With its accessible Italian cuisine, distinctive interior, and memorable dining experience, it has become a beloved chain across the United States just like Maggiano’s, Olive Garden and Carraba’s. Whether you’re dining with family, friends, or even rubbing elbows with celebrities, Buca Di Beppo offers a slice of Italian charm that keeps patrons coming back for more.