The culinary podcast featuring 88Nine's Tarik Moody and MilMag's Ann Christenson talking about all things dining-related.
Tarik Moody and I devote the latest episode of This Bites (on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee) to restaurateur Joe Bartolotta, who passed away last week. We talk about the impact the co-founder of The Bartolotta Restaurants made in this community and beyond.
Because I review restaurants anonymously, I did not meet Joe Bartolotta in person but talked to him many times by phone over the years. And there were occasions when I was at one of his restaurants – Ristorante Bartolotta, for instance – and though he didn’t know who he was greeting at the entrance, I received a hearty welcome at the hostess station just like everyone else. As his empire grew, I didn’t see Joe in the restaurants as often. And increasingly over time, when I wanted to speak with him by phone for a story I was working on, he might direct me to executive chef/managing partner Adam Siegel. In retrospect, I think Joe was conscious of spreading himself too thin and was also cognizant of letting his trusted team have a voice.
When we reflect on the influence Bartolotta has made in this city, it’s not awards I’m talking about. Many chefs have trained in a Bartolotta restaurant and moved up the ladder at a another restaurant here or in another city or opened a restaurant right here in Milwaukee. The web of outgrowth is much larger than the restaurants themselves.
Joe died at 60, incredibly young, but the system he built, the culinary structure he contributed to here in Milwaukee, will have lasting impact.