Sad news today here in Milwaukee: Joe Bartolotta passed away last night. The 60-year-old restaurateur, known for fantastic and popular restaurants, catering, and more around Milwaukee, died peacefully in his sleep, according to a news release.
The Bartolotta Group released this statement: "Joe is beloved by the Milwaukee community for his hospitality heart, generosity and love of all.”
Joe grew up in Wauwatosa and worked in restaurants in New York before returning to Milwaukee. He opened his first restaurant, Ristorante Bartolotta, with his brother Paul on State Street in the Tosa village in 1993. It's been consistently rated the best Italian restaurant in Milwaukee and received a DiRoNA Award from Distinguished Restaurants of North America.
From there, the Bartolotta Restaurant Group expanded to include Bacchus, Harbor House, and The Rumpus Room around downtown Milwaukee; Lake Park Bistro on the east side; Mr. B's in Brookfield and Mequon, and Pizzeria Piccola in Tosa, along with Joey Gerard's and Downtown Kitchen.
Joe was a great guy. When I was Executive Director at BizStarts Milwaukee, we gave him an "Inspirational Entrepreneur" award and he discussed starting his business - and restaurants - in full detail with all the ups and downs. He'll be greatly missed and our thoughts go out to the entire Bartolotta family.