The First Buca Di Beppo Was In A Surprising Location

Buca di Beppo embodies everything we love about chain restaurant dining — it's reliable, it's familiar, it's kitschy, it's affordable, it's easy to head to with family and friends, and it's got good grub. Because of the eateries wide-reaching spread, many Americans have grown up with fond memories of celebratory dinners there. According to the chain's website, there are currently 71 locations scattered across America. Those locations are in their own buildings — we know that sounds weird and obvious to point out but it will make sense in a moment — and decorated in a way that makes them instantly recognizable and on-brand, yet unique from other chains in how over-the-top they are. 

The aesthetic and entire vibe, after all, was inspired by the Northeast red sauce joints founder Phil Roberts visited, which he wanted to turn into an accessible family experience in his native Midwest (via Bon Appétit). For all of the gaudy grandeur and present chain restaurant icon status that Buca di Beppo has, it may surprise you to know its humble beginnings. If you know what the restaurant's name means, you might already have an inkling.

Buca di Beppo's legacy traces back to a basement

According to Bon Appétit, Buca di Beppo translates to "my buddy's basement." And there's actually a bit of real meaning behind that. Remember when we pointed out how the current pasta restaurant locations are in their own, above-ground buildings? That's because the first-ever Buca di Beppo was in fact in an actual basement. Mental Floss writes that when Phil Roberts returned to the Midwest after visiting Northeastern red sauce joints, he opened the premier location in Minneapolis in 1993 in a basement. He did so with manager Joseph Micatrotto and they called that spot Buca Little Italy. 

"Buca" technically means "hole" in Italian, but is kind of like slang for basement. So, Buca di Beppo started out as "The Basement of Little Italy." When Roberts expanded with more locations, he wanted to call the restaurant name the restaurant for his buddy's basement. "Beppo" is a nickname for Giuseppe, the Italian version of Joseph. In a hat tip to Micatrotto, the entire chain now is a reference to "my buddy's basement" or "Joe's basement." Thanks to that name and its backstory, you can remember the friendship-driven roots of this chain without actually dining in a basement.