How did Joe Zucchero die? Founder of Mr.Beef Cause of death and Obituary

How did Joe Zucchero die? Founder of Mr.Beef Cause of death and Obituary

The founder of Chicago’s iconic Mr. Beef, Joe Zucchero has died. Let’s see more details about Joe Zucchero and his cause of death in detail.

How did Joe Zucchero die?

Zucchero passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday of last week. He was 69. He was battling cancer for two decades.

On Instagram, his son Chris Zucchero wrote: ” 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 is survived by his wife of 45 years, two children, and three beloved dogs, as well as two siblings and in-laws.

How did Joe Zucchero die? Founder of Mr.Beef Cause of death and Obituary

Cause of death

The founder of Mr.Beef, the legendary Italian beef stand that’s served River North for more than 40 years and became the inspiration for The Bear television show, has died. Joe Zucchero died on Wednesday, March 1, at Rush Medical Center in Chicago after fighting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for more than two decades. He was 69.

Their Family said when he wasn’t creating some of Chicago’s most popular Italian beef sandwiches, he liked to collect original movie posters, bobbleheads, and antiques.

Who was Joe Zucchero?

Zucchero was born in Chicago and raised on the Northwest Side before moving to Park Ridge in the late 1970s. He began his professional career as a butcher at Dominick’s Finer Foods, then opened Mr. Beef in River North in 1979. The restaurant has become a staple in the city and also inspired the popular television show “The Bear.”

Even while battling cancer, Zucchero loved his restaurant and serving his customers. His daughter, Lauren, talks about how her father refused to raise the cost of Italian beef while the cost of beef skyrocketed in recent years.

“My dad was gregarious, he was rough around the edges,” his daughter says. “He had a very big heart and he loved being around the restaurant.”

Best Italian beef in town

When Chicagoans argue about the best Italian beef in town, comparing the bread and thin-sliced slivers of beef soaked in jus, Mr. Beef is in most conversations. The sandwich, now a hot commodity across the country, has been around since the 1930s. Invented by Italian Americans who wanted to stretch their dollars by slow-cooking less-desirable cuts of beef to feed large groups of people, it’s a definitive Chicago street food — “a very trivial and esoteric thing” in the city, says Joseph Zucchero’s son, Chris Zucchero.

Rivalries have developed between Italian beef stands in Chicago, but Joe Zucchero never bad-mouthed other restaurants, his son says, and kept out of most conflicts. A unique aspect of Mr. Beef is its location which isn’t far from the Loop and its office buildings and former Cabrini-Green, the large Chicago Housing Authority development that brew began tearing down in the late ‘90s. The location gave the restaurant a diverse customer base, and Joe Zucchero became a beloved figure. Chris Zucchero expects many fans to turn out for the funeral.

Joe Zucchero’s Journey

The restaurant is a survivor, even fighting off foreclosure in 2009. In March of that year, Zucchero traveled to the nation’s capital to testify in front of a House subcommittee to discuss the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, a government program created to establish stability after the financial crisis of 2008. Zucchero also had a second restaurant, Natalino’s, in River North. The restaurant closed in 2012.

“We source all of our food and our products from small business purveyors,” Zucchero told the subcommittee in 2009. “The economic downturn has had its impacts on my business due to loss of jobs and income from residents who live and work near downtown Chicago.”

His son would tease his father after he returned home from D.C.: “That was the only time an Italian American has gone before Congress and wasn’t indicted,” Chris Zucchero says while laughing. “That’s my dad speaking through me — he didn’t mince words, he was very lovable, and his personality was magnetic here.”

Chris Zucchero lives in Minnesota but says with his sister and friends in Chicago that Mr. Beef will continue. Zucchero’s comments from 2009 in front of the House continue to be relevant today as small businesses struggle through the ripple effects of the pandemic. Part of Mr. Beef’s charm, as Zucchero said back in 2009, was the relationships with small vendors, and that includes bakeries. As easy as chefs in other cities believe it is to copy Italian beef sandwiches, Mr. Beef focuses on details. This includes the French rolls which have the perfect density to sop up the beef’s jus. In Mr. Beef’s case, it’s a small bakery called Liborio.


Joseph is preceded in death by his mother, Rita (nee Natalino) Grippo, father Nicholas (Cookie) Zucchero, father-in-law Edward Eng, and much-loved pets, Jake, Mugsy, Bella, and Nero. A lifelong Chicagoan, Joseph was raised on the Northwest side of the city, before settling in Park Ridge in the late 1970s. He started his professional career as a butcher at Dominick’s Finer Foods, before opening Mr. Beef in the River North neighborhood in 1980. 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.

Joe loved to spend time building his collections of original movie posters, bobbleheads, and antiques from his favorite eras. An avid music fan, he had an eclectic taste, from Frank Sinatra to Steely Dan, the Rascals, and Boy George. Joe was also a fan of film; in particular from the golden age of Hollywood. He loved his dogs, spending time in the sun, and making friends that became family.

Visitation Saturday, March 11th, 9:00 am -11:30 am. Service 11:30 am at Cooney Funeral Home (625 Busse Hwy Park Ridge IL). Interment All Saints Cemetery. For further information please contact or 1-847-685-1002. Visitation for Joseph “Joe” Zucchero is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 11, at Cooney Funeral Home in Park Ridge. A service will follow at the funeral home.

Social Media Condolence

Joe Mantegna Posted

35 years ago my wife surprised me on my birthday by having a party in Chicago catered by Mr. Beef. Thus began a friendship that has endured all these years. R.I.P Joe Zucchero. I’m glad you were around to see the success of
@TheBearFX The beat goes on.

Senator Dick Durbin Posted

Saddened to hear Joe Zucchero, the founder of Chicago’s iconic Mr. Beef, has passed away. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to sit down with Joe back in November. Sending my condolences to his family and loved ones as they mourn his loss. May he rest in peace.

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