Closing of Downtown’s Buca di Beppo Triggers Nostalgia

Arrivederci to Milwaukee’s Buca di Beppo. We took a trip down memory lane and looked at our original restaurant review from 1996.

Buca di Beppo (1233 N. Van Buren St.) served its last chicken cacciatore last Sunday. So what?

Well… When Buca – a Minneapolis-based chain serving family-style portions of plates like veal parmigiana – opened a Milwauke location in 1995, it was like nobody had seen platters of eggplant parmigiana before. (Plus it opened across from Victor’s, in the former digs of DKC’s Armadillo Grill, a hotspot for food and live music in the early 1990s.)

In a Feb. 1996 review, Buca was described by then-Mil Mag dining critic Willard Romantini, as a “surreal ‘Italian World’ theme park… a Chuck E. Cheese for adults.” To be sure, it was plastered with kitschy Italian memorabilia and had a “shrine” to Frank Sinatra. For the first few years, it was one of the toughest tables in town to get. Go there on a weekend? Fuhgettaboutit.

Initially the food – if you ordered rigatoni with Italian sausage, spaghetti and meatballs or a pizza ­­– measured up to hype. I remember an antipasto platter that could serve six, and the giant bowls of tiramisu and 12-by-12-inch loaf of bread pudding ($5-$6 each).

But even though the downtown Milwaukee location of Buca di Beppo has closed, local fans need not despair. They can get their fix at the only other Wisconsin location – at Southridge mall in Greendale (5300 S. 76th St., Suite 1440A).



Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.