Restaurateur Joe Bartolotta Has Passed Away

The patriarch of the Bartolotta Restaurants died in his sleep Monday night at age 60.

Incredibly sad news to report today. Joe Bartolotta, the dean of Milwaukee restaurateurs, has died. The news came to us by press release from Julie Kaye, chief marketing officer of The Bartolotta Restaurants:

From the press release:

Joe Bartolotta, Co-Owner of The Bartolotta Restaurants, passed away peacefully in his sleep with a smile on his face last night at the age of 60. Joe is beloved by the Milwaukee community for his hospitality heart, generosity and love of all. The family asks for privacy at this time.  More information will be shared as it is available.

Bartolotta, who partnered with his chef-brother Paul, opened his first restaurant, Ristorante Bartolotta, in 1993. It was followed by Lake Park Bistro in 1995 and Bacchus in 2004, followed by many other dining establishments past and present.  

Bartolotta was open about having diabetes and undergoing a kidney transplant in 2013

He was featured prominently in our “Most Influential People In Milwaukee,” the cover story of our November 2015 feature. From that piece:

Joe Bartolotta, Co-owner, The Bartolotta Restaurants

Many chefs have trained in the kitchens of Joe B’s empire, which – besides fine-dining venues Lake Park Bistro, Bacchus, Harbor House and others – has grown to include casual restaurant models (such as Downtown Kitchen) that it can duplicate. Bartolotta Restaurants is “the gold standard,” says a source, that “created the excitement [for dining] in Milwaukee.”

We also profiled Bartolotta’s wife, Jennifer, last December. 

And here’s a statement from VISIT Milwaukee, the city’s main tourism agency, on whose board Bartolotta served: 

“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of longtime VISIT Milwaukee board member and tourism advocate Joe Bartolotta, who died last night in his sleep at the age of 60. He was an active community member who gave tremendous support to Milwaukee’s hospitality industry. He was a wonderful human being who will be sorely missed. Our deepest sympathies go out to the entire Bartolotta family.”




Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.