Restaurant Talk: Milwaukee's Best, Brothers Joe and Paul Bartolotta

Apr 02, 2019 328

How did the Bartolotta brothers, partners in the Milwaukee-based Bartolotta Restaurants group, become leading restaurateurs in the Midwest? Joe Bartolotta, president and co-owner, would point out that his brother, Paul, brought talent and experience from working in the kitchens of storied spots like the Rainbow Room in New York and Spiaggia in Chicago; he had been executive chef at the latter for nine years. But Paul, chef and co-owner, would credit Joe's knack for finding business opportunities and managing diverse concepts over the past quarter-century in Wisconsin's biggest city. The admiration the brothers have for each other is palpable.

The Milwaukee-area natives went from opening their first 55-seat restaurant, Ristorante Bartolotta, back in 1993, to now running 17 restaurants and catering venues, with cuisines ranging from Italian to French to contemporary American—even a "custard stand"—while managing some 1,000 employees. These ventures include Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner Bacchus and Award of Excellence winners Bartolotta's Lake Park BistroMr. B's Steakhouses and the original Ristorante Bartolotta. There's also Care-a-Lotta, an organization that supports some 200 different charities in the Milwaukee community, where "everybody wants to give and help," says Joe.

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