Buca di Beppo Italian restaurant coming in late summer

CHAMPAIGN — The popular Buca di Beppo chain plans to open a restaurant at Champaign's Market Place Mall in the late summer, mall owner General Growth Properties announced Tuesday.

The restaurant will occupy about 5,000 square feet near the food court in the former Pasta House space, said mall general manager Dennis Robertson.

The restaurant — which provides casual, sit-down Italian dining — will also open at nine other General Growth Properties malls about the same time.

Buca di Beppo — a concept conceived by University of Illinois alumnus Phil Roberts — has more than 90 locations in the U.S., England and Mexico.

The menu includes items such as lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, shrimp fra diavolo and chicken parmigiana. Food is served family-style.

General Growth Properties described the decor as "quirky," with "irreverent photographs," gingham tablecloths and strands of multi-colored lights.

"It should be a really fun concept," Robertson said. "They're experienced in what they're doing, and we're excited to have them."

The Pasta House space had been vacant since it closed in September 2000 after less than a year at the mall.

The first Buca di Beppo restaurant opened in 1993 in the basement of a Minneapolis apartment building. The chain went public on the Nasdaq exchange in 1999 and was acquired in September 2008 by Planet Hollywood International.

Buca di Beppo Chairman Robert Earl said the deal with General Growth Properties is part of a strategy to put new restaurants in "retail environments that offer high traffic counts (and) appealing demographics."

The new restaurants will range from 4,500 to 7,000 square feet. Other malls that will get one as a result of the deal are in Tallahassee, Fla.; Augusta, Ga.; Macon, Ga.; Gretna, La.; Mesquite, Texas; Florence, Ky.; Baltimore; St. George, Utah; and Appleton, Wis.

The closest locations to Champaign are four stores in the Chicago area (downtown, Lombard, Orland Park and Wheeling) and three in the Indianapolis area (downtown, Castleton Square and Greenwood).

Chicago-based General Growth Properties owns or has an interest in 136 regional shopping malls in the United States.

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chai wrote on February 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Another chain restaurant?  That's just what Champaign-Urbana needs!

phb wrote on February 15, 2012 at 4:02 pm

EVERY chain restaurant starts as a local one somewhere.  Food for thought

chai wrote on February 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Yes, it's underwhelming chain food for thought.

Orbiter wrote on February 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Of course a chain restaurant is what we need! We learned with the demise of the locally-owned Buttitta's last year that chains are all the people in this area want.... 

.... or maybe they just want relatively tasty, affordable food with good service standards?  At least the new operation is going to be something other than Chinese or Mexican. Whew!  Good luck to Buca, hopefully they'll thrive in our little mall.  The nearby Olive Garden is often packed, so there must be some demand for this style of fare!

awiste wrote on February 15, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Mmm... Buca is delicious! I can't wait!

kewlwoman77 wrote on February 15, 2012 at 4:02 pm

glad to hear something is going in that empty space, but most locations are in much bigger cities, and looking at the menu online it looks too pricey for a place in the mall!


 

awiste wrote on February 16, 2012 at 5:02 am

They serve their food 'family style' so the prices you see in the menu don't really reflect a per person price. But I do question it's success in a mall. Doesn't really seem like a good place for a sit down restaurant, but I could be wrong. Oh, and to the person that mentioned Olive Garden, Buca is FAR SUPERIOR to Olive Garden. Super tasty food.

woodspider wrote on February 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm

On behalf of people who have moved here since 2000, where is this space?  Is it its own restaurant or a booth in the food court?  The Bucas up north have liquor licenses, any one know if this will be a full service place or just a take out?

Champaign Guest wrote on February 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm

It's a space at the northwest corner of the food court, with a separate seating area.