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Joe Zucchero, longtime owner of Mr. Beef, dies at 69

Joseph Zucchero, founder of Mr. Beef in River North, dies
Joseph Zucchero, founder of Mr. Beef in River North, dies 00:27

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Joseph Zucchero, longtime owner of the famous Mr. Beef Italian beef stand in River North, has died.

Cooney Funeral Home said Zucchero passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday of last week. He was 69.

On Instagram, son Chris Zucchero wrote: "A part of me, my family, and Mr. Beef died today. I was incredibly lucky to be this man's son. I know this. Most don't even get to know their dads. I lived every waking moment of my life with him in some kind of capacity. If there truly is a Heaven, I hope you're there Dad. And I hope I get to see you again."

Zucchero was raised on the city's Northwest Side and settled in Park Ridge in the late 1970s, the unreal home said. He first worked as a butcher at Dominick's grocery stores, and then opened Mr. Beef at 666 N. Orleans St.

Zucchero took over Mr. Beef in 1979. It had been founded by brothers-in-law Carl Bonavolanto and Tony Ozzauto in 1963. 

"Joe was able to build his restaurant into a Chicago staple over the last 40+ years, through his ability to connect with people from all walks of life, over the shared love of food," the funeral home obit read.

Mr. Beef has more recently become the inspiration for the acclaimed FX television series "The Bear," starring Jeremy Allen White as a young chef with ambitions at an Italian beef stand. Chris Zucchero told his father visited the set for the show – even while fighting cancer.

On Twitter, actor Joe Mantegna tweeted that his wife surprised him 35 years ago at a party catered by Mr. Beef.

Joe Zucchero was also an avid music fan – with "an eclectic taste, from Frank Sinatra to Steely Dan, the Rascals and Boy George," his obit read. He was also a fan of film – particularly from the golden age of Hollywood, and loved his dogs and time on the sun, according to his obit.

Zucchero is survived by his wife, Camille, son Christopher (Kacey) and daughter Lauren, and brother Dominic (Dee) Zucchero and sister Claudine Grippo.

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