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Lunch With The Bartolotta Brothers

Adam Ryan Morris/Milwaukee Magazine

A couple of years ago, we spoke with Joe Bartolotta, one of the two brothers at the heart of the Bartolotta restaurant group, whose presence and influence in Milwaukee has been steadily increasing. He offered some thoughts about why his restaurant business has been a success for 20 years:

"Part of my responsibility is to not only enhance my life and my family’s life, but to enhance the people around us and bring everybody’s standard of living up a little bit," he said. "We have over 1000 employees so I take that very, very seriously."

In the 18 months since, the business has continued to grow with ambitious plans for the future. Reporter Jon Anne Willow had a rare opportunity to sit down for lunch with both Bartolotta brothers – Joe and Paul – not long ago at their new Downtown Kitchen restaurant opened. Her Q&A with them is in the January issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

She shared her reporter's notebook with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich after having lunch with the brothers.

"I met [Joe] at Downtown Kitchen and Paul was there and he said, 'Hey, you want to sit down and talk to both of us?' I don't remember them ever having been interviewed together before, and it turns out that that was indeed the case. So I went ahead with it and fortunately it all turned out really well," Willow says.

Even though they were all sitting down for a meal in their own restaurant, Willow never put the brothers under a microscope nor put a lot of pressure on the interview itself. Willow compared the experience of eating with the Bartolotta brothers to a family meal. "We ended up putting all the food in the middle of the table, cutting into pieces, sharing it, commenting on it, and just basically passing hands all over the place, it was great," she says.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.