The Devastating Death Of Mr. Beef Founder Joe Zucchero

Even if you didn't actually know the man behind Mr. Beef, chances are that if you're from Chicago, you know of Mr. Beef. The restaurant was opened by founder Joseph Zucchero more than 40 years ago and remains one of the most famous Italian beef stands in the city. But sadly, Zucchero's family announced that the restaurateur, father, husband, and friend "passed away unexpectedly" on March 1, just a week after his 69th birthday (via Cooney Funeral Home). Zucchero's son Chris Zucchero took to Instagram to share a heartfelt remembrance of his father. "A part of me, my family, and Mr. Beef died today," he shared. "Most don't even get to know their dads. I lived every waking moment of my life with him in some kind of capacity."

For those not from Chicago, Italian beef is one of the city's most iconic foods, and one that was the specialty of Mr. Beef. Authentic Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches usually feature slow-cooked, seasoned beef, which is sliced and served atop a split French roll with spicy giardiniera, roasted sweet bell peppers, or both. In the finishing flourish, the sandwich is dunked into the savory beef jus that the meat was cooked in. Zucchero's Mr. Beef Italian beef sandwiches are so famous and beloved that they even count Jay Leno as a fan. But, that wasn't Zucchero's only influence on pop culture. His restaurant was also the inspiration for the critically acclaimed television show, "The Bear."

Mr. Beef and 'The Bear'

Born in 1954, Joseph Zucchero began his foray into the professional world as a butcher, and he opened the now-legendary Mr. Beef in 1979. The Italian beef joint is so iconic to the city of Chicago that it was the model for the fictional Original Beef of Chicagoland eatery in "The Bear," starring Jeremy Allen White. In a recent interview with NPR, Zucchero shared that when his son Chris was young, he and his friend Chris Storer (who created "The Bear") would meet up, he would "let them hang around the restaurant." Clearly, it made an impression. Zucchero said that when he visited the set of "The Bear," he couldn't believe how similar it was to his own restaurant, "from the floor to the ceiling to the countertops to the equipment."

Zucchero's legacy will live on, not only in the sandwiches that Mr. Beef continues to churn out with Chris as the co-owner, but also in the lives he touched. In addition to inspiring "The Bear," which in turn created a Chicago beef boom in the city, Zucchero connected with tens of thousands of Chicagoans and tourists who ate at Mr. Beef over the last 40 years. Finally, of course, there's the lasting impact he left on his family. On Zucchero's 69th birthday, Chris shared a poignant photo of his father working at the restaurant on Instagram. "This is my father at his most happiest," he shared, "behind the table and in front of his prized Berkel slicers."