The Story of Joe’s Basement

The year is 1948….

The war is over. Giuseppe and his younger brother, Guistino, have moved to New York City from Castellamare, a village southeast of Naples in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius. They’ve been here for six months and live with their cousins in a crowded buca (basement) apartment on Mott street in Little Italy. Giuseppe is frequently called Joe now, but his best pals call him “Beppo.”

Working twelve hours a day in the kitchen of a neighborhood Italian restaurant, Joe nurtures a vision. He dreams of owning his own place… The kind of restaurant that is embedded in his fondest memories of Italy… A place to share his family’s recipes that were handed down for generations… A restaurant where all senses would be stimulated… A beacon of warmth on the coldest night, spirited and alive with families and music and the smell of homemade sauces in the air…With the vitality of the surroundings so overwhelming that there would be no place for the eye to rest… Bold and powerfully flavored food… A place where Italians will remember home, and others will feel transported.

Yet while celebrating the old country, Beppo embraces the bounty of America. He is not a small man – he’s in his mid-thirties and already boasts an ample gut. He likes his food, he likes his wine and he loves leftovers.

Beppo wants to join the greatest American pastime, bowling. He’ll bowl when he can afford it (and when he has time) and he’ll display his trophies right in the restaurant.

Joe was raised in a devoted Catholic family, but he never got to visit the Vatican. The long hours he spends in the restaurant makes regular church-going impossible. So he’ll decorate his dining room with the religious symbols of his youth, and dedicate a special table for the Papa. It can’t hurt. And like his mama said, you never know who’s going to stop by for dinner.

Joe loves to laugh and have fun. He wants to create a restaurant where the gusto of his cooking matches the spirit of his heart. A place where even the stiffest banker will loosen his tie and bid “salute” to his friends. Joe has a genuine warmth towards people and is passionate about food, service and value. To those kind enough to patronize his business, he returns the favor by making each and every one of his Guest feel special.

If there’s one thing Joe knows, it’s that nobody in America goes hungry, especially in his dream restaurant. His entrees and pastas will overflow from giant family platters right on to the table. The meatballs will be as big as blacksmith’s fists, the pizza as grand as the oven can accommodate. And the specials…Mama Mia.

Immigrant families help one another to get a start, and his uncle has founded a modest restaurant site for him. It is inexpensive, but there’s one problem – it’s in a basement!

Joe knew that as he started Buca di Beppo that it would be important to have a clear vision of what he would offer his Guests. In his heart he wanted his Guests to feel his love for life and his passion for vital, vibrant and powerfully flavored foods. He wanted his Guests to have a taste of his experience from back home – to feel Buca Love – the love of a family. He clarified his thoughts with the following vision that represents what we want to be and what we want to achieve as Buca Family Members:

Joe knew that it is not the blood in our veins but the spirit in our heart that makes anyone Italian!