Buca di Beppo may have started as a small, family-style restaurant in Minneapolis, but the eclectic Italian chain now has nearly 100 locations in the U.S. and UK. Grab some friends and family and enjoy these facts about what makes them a family-sized success.
1. THE FIRST BUCA DI BEPPO OPENED IN THE BASEMENT OF A MINNEAPOLIS APARTMENT BUILDING.
In 1993, Twin Cities restaurateur Phil Roberts teamed up with restaurant manager Joseph Micatrotto to open Buca Little Italy. They expanded their idea to create an "unchained chain" restaurant in multiple locations. Roberts envisioned his new, family-style Italian joint as an alternative to what he saw as cookie-cutter restaurants.
2. THE NAME TRANSLATES TO 'JOE’S BASEMENT.'
Though "buca" technically translates from Italian as "hole," it is commonly used as a term for a basement. Combining that with "Beppo"—a nickname for Giuseppe (the Italian version of "Joseph")—loosely translates to "Joe's Basement," which was quite appropriate, considering their first location.
3. ALL THE FOOD IS SERVED IN LARGE, FAMILY-STYLE PORTIONS.
Dishes at the restaurant can be enjoyed in two sizes, small and large, which are intended to feed at least two people, or as many as 20 if you opt for a pan of pasta. Their meatball, weighing in at a half-pound, has its own online gallery of famous fans like Shaquille O'Neal and Jenny McCarthy.
4. THE DECOR IS MEANT TO RESEMBLE A POST-WORLD WAR II ITALIAN NEIGHBORHOOD.
The walls of Buca di Beppo are lined with photos of Italian immigrants and artifacts from the post-war years. Multiple rooms are themed: The walls and ceiling of the Poster Room are covered with vintage Italian posters, and in the Wine Room, wine bottles, vines, and twinkle lights decorate the ceiling.
5. ITS DECOR IS INTENTIONALLY HIDEOUS.
"When we started Buca, all the Italian restaurants were sleek and slick, with marble and beveled glass and granite and all that," its founder, Phil Roberts once said. "So I said, ‘You know? I want a sleeves-up restaurant where the guest feels superior to the restaurant, rather than being looked down on.’ That’s why the interiors of Buca are so tasteless." Once, Roberts overheard a woman telling her husband that "some god-awful" statue in the restaurant was so tacky that she'd never allow it in her home. Roberts was thrilled: "I thought, 'Yes! Yes! Yes! We did it!'"
6. YOU CAN DINE WITH THE POPE AT EVERY BUCA DI BEPPO LOCATION.
In addition to the Poster and Wine rooms, large parties of 12-18 can reserve the "Pope Room." It’s decorated with statues, photos, and memorabilia from popes past in addition to a large round table in the center of which sits a bust of the pope on a Lazy Susan, to help you share bread and salad.
7. A RELIGIOUS FIGURE HAS BLESSED THE OPENING OF EVERY LOCATION.
While some Catholic officials are less than amused at the slightly irreverent aspect of Buca di Beppo’s decor (which includes a print of The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel that has a speech bubble of God saying "Pull my finger"), the company says it’s all in good fun and that the religious artifacts are all part of honoring the Italian immigrant experience. And while the company traditionally has a priest come to bless the opening of each new location, they've been known to have a local rabbi do the honors before.
8. ACTOR JASON SCHWARTZMAN ONCE GOT FIRED FROM A BUCA DI BEPPO—IN A MOVIE.
In a scene from last year's indie comedy 7 Chinese Brothers, Schwartzman’s character gets fired from a Buca di Beppo for allegedly stealing $5 out of a $10 tip. His character says goodbye to the kitchen staff and steals a bottle of liquor on the way out. Wonder what the pope would think about that?