Co-Founder • The Bartolotta Restaurants
1958 - 2019
Joe Bartolotta was a widely celebrated restaurateur whose vision, entrepreneurial sense, and commitment to the finest food and hospitality have literally shaped the culinary scene in Milwaukee. Over the course of 26 years, Joe and his brother Paul grew their business presence from one restaurant to 16 restaurants and catering facilities in the Milwaukee market, building a reputation as one of the premier restaurant groups in the Midwest. Their achievements have earned them national recognition as well, with a nomination by the James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Restaurateur three years in a row - 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Guided by his five tenets of hospitality, Joe believed in taking care of his employees first, followed by guests, vendors, community, and finally, the bottom line. These tenets enabled Joe to endure in one of the toughest industries. His inspiration and mission were to provide opportunities for his employees and exceptional dining experiences for his guests.
Joe grew up in Wauwatosa and spent time working in restaurants in New York before returning to his hometown. He opened his first restaurant, Ristorante Bartolotta, with his brother Paul in the village of Wauwatosa in 1993. Garnering a four-star review by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel soon after opening, Ristorante Bartolotta has consistently been rated the best Italian restaurant in Milwaukee, has received a DiRoNA Award from Distinguished Restaurants of North America and was recently named one of the 25 Best Italian Restaurants in America by Thrillist.
Joe followed the success of Ristorante Bartolotta with the opening of Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro in 1995. The restaurant received another four-star success with the DiRoNA Award from Distinguished Restaurants of North America.
In 1999, The Bartolotta Restaurants opened a traditional steakhouse, Mr. B's - A Bartolotta Steakhouse, in Brookfield. In 2006, Mr. B's received a DiRoNA Award from Distinguished Restaurants of North America, and in 2013, Mr. B's was named one of America's Top 20 Steakhouses by The Daily Meal as well as one of the top steakhouses in the country by Food & Wine Magazine.
In 2004, Joe opened Bacchus - A Bartolotta Restaurant, located in the historic Cudahy Tower, offering a commanding view of Lake Michigan and the Burke Brise Soleil. The restaurant received a four-star review by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and features a 750+ bottle wine list and a menu that changes seasonally to use the freshest ingredients available.
Following the success of Joe's diverse restaurants, The Bartolotta Restaurants launched another successful venture, Bartolotta Catering & Events. Bartolotta Catering & Events is the exclusive caterer for three of Milwaukee's premier event spaces: Discovery World on Milwaukee's lakefront, and The Grain Exchange in Downtown Milwaukee, and the Italian Community Center in the Historic Third Ward.
A long-standing partnership with the Milwaukee County parks enabled Joe to launch Milwaukee’s only custard and burger stand on the shore of Lake Michigan called Northpoint Custard in 2009. That same year, Joe partnered with SSP America to create a casual pizza and pasta restaurant, Nonna’s, at Mitchell International Airport, and a second Northpoint Custard stand and Pizzeria Piccola soon followed.
In August 2010, Harbor House opened on the waterfront of downtown Milwaukee. In October 2011, The Rumpus Room, a European-inspired gastropub, opened in the city, and Joey Gerard’s – A Bartolotta Supper Club, opened in Greendale in August 2012 and in Mequon in October 2012. Miss Beverly’s Deluxe BBQ opened in Greendale in July 2014, and Downtown Kitchen opened in the US Bank Center in downtown Milwaukee in September 2014. In 2016, Bartolotta and his team also renovated and began managing the cafeteria at Kohl's Corporate in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
Giving back to the community had always been important to Joe. In addition to playing a key role with The Bartolotta Restaurants’ philanthropic arm, Care-a-lotta, Joe at on the boards of many local organizations, including the MATC Advisory Board for Culinary Arts, VISIT Milwaukee, and the WRA – the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.
Joe was a 40 Under 40 award-winner, which honors Milwaukee's up-and-coming young professionals and was inducted into the 40 Under 40 Hall of Fame in 2015. He also received the MCFI Community Trendsetter Award, the 2012 Liver Foundation Silver Cleaver Award, the 2011 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Upper Midwest Award for Hospitality, and the VISIT Milwaukee Lamplighter Award.
Joe also actively supported Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and organ donation awareness. He and his wife Jennifer together supported Schools That Can, Meta House, Milwaukee Public School's ProStart Program, and the Wisconsin Humane Society.