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).