Joe Bartolotta, co-owner of The Bartolotta Restaurants, died in his sleep, the restaurant group shared Tuesday. He was 60 years old.
For the past 25 years, Bartolotta's name has been synonymous with fine and quality dining in southeastern Wisconsin. He oversaw some of the area's most successful eateries, including Ristorante Bartolotta, Lake Park Bistro, Harbor House and Bachhus.
A statement released by the restaurant group says: "Joe is beloved by the Milwaukee community for his hospitality heart, generosity and love of all. The family asks for privacy at this time."
In 2013, Bartolotta told WUWM in an interview that:
“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. I take that very, very seriously."
For 30 years, Bartolotta had battled diabetes. He had called it "a slow creep, debilitating disease." In 2013, he underwent a kidney transplant, saying his "life changed overnight" and called it a miracle. He had then become a transplant advocate and hoped that his story inspired others to become organ donors.