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Milwaukee's best Italian, 2012

 

Published Oct. 26, 2012 at 3:02 p.m.
For the sixth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2012."

Your votes are in, Milwaukee, and you have selected the winners of OnMilwaukee's Best Dining 2012. We're announcing the results of this readers' poll, including our editors' pick, in a series of articles that run all October long during Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com.

For the fifth straight year, OnMilwaukee.com readers have chosen Ristorante Bartolotta in Tosa Village as Milwaukee's best Italian restaurant.

Though Bartolotta's has branched out into steaks, seafood, French food, gastropubs and beyond, Ristorante Bartolotta has been there from the beginning. For nearly two decades, Joe Bartolotta has run one of the most consistently great Italian restaurants in town.

Thanks to head Chef Juan Urbieta, the menu has never gone stale. Urbieta and his crew create great special menus, including ones that focus on the bounty of regional Italian cuisine, spotlighting the diversity of Italian cooking, as well as winemaker dinners that pair great wines with special menus.

So, if you're looking for red-checkered tablecloths and 10 versions of spaghetti and meatballs, you'll have to go elsewhere.

If, on the other hand, you like seafood, polenta, risotto, a wine list worthy of exploration, warm and crusty bread, a comfortable atmosphere and an attentive, knowledgeable staff, Ristorante Bartolotta remains the place to go in Milwaukee for Italian food.

The OnMilwaukee.com editorial staff agrees and also picked Ristorante Bartolotta as its editors' choice.

Scouting report: Ristorante Bartolotta

OnMilwaukee.com
November 23, 2009

Ristorante Bartolotta could potentially be deemed the patriarch of the now robust Bartolotta empire, a restaurant group that holds with it Lake Park Bistro, Mr. B's, Bacchus, and Pizzeria Piccola.

Ristorante, 7616 W. State St., opened its doors over 15 years ago, shines quietly on a corner in downtown Wauwatosa. If you aren't paying close attention, you might accidentally drive by the quaint restaurant, which has minimal signage and low lighting.

A bar filled with Italian wines and a plentiful grappa selection lines one wall, decorated with tastefully taxidermied pheasants, while the rest of the intimate dining space is laden with small, white-tableclothed tables. The walls showcase family-style photographs and lovely cobalt glass bottles shine from a shelf overhead.

The menu at Ristorante is simple and focuses heavily on the Northern Italian style of cooking. Additionally, Ristorante offers a seasonal menu, which at this writing, was a four-course dinner featuring white truffles for $120 per head, or priced à la carte for diners who wanted to sample one or more of the dishes without venturing into all the seasonal courses.

Diners at Ristorante can choose from Gli Antipasti (appetizers), Le Insalate (salads), I Primi (selections showcasing predominantly pastas), and I Secondi (predominantly carnivorous entrées).

The simple, 16-selection daily menu calls dishes by their Italian names which sometimes can appear intimidating to non-speakers, but offers fairly straightforward options like Carpaccio di Manzo alla Veneta ($10.95), a beef carpaccio with capers and Grana Padano -- a delicate, semi-hard Italian grating cheese which makes multiple appearances on Ristorante's menu -- and a pairing of cheeses, frittata and cured meats and olives in an antipasto della casa ($10.50). The latter also contained a savory duck liver pâte over thumb-sized crostini on my scouting visit.

Salad selections include a mixed greens ($7.95), cesare ($8.95), and tomato, red onion and gorgonzola ($9.25) platings, and can be shared at the diner's request.

Pappardelle con Sugo d'Anatra ($15.95/$23.95) plates wide ribbon pasta with a red wine-braised duck ragu, while Ravioli di Magro al Burro Nociola Tartufato (15.95/24.95) fills ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach, in a brown butter sauce.

Secondi ventures into beef, pork chops, and chicken, with some seafood options as well. Expect to see some unique applications to traditional Italian dishes, for example, a bone-in pork chop (Braciola di Maiale al Marsala, $24.95) is served over Marsala wine pan sauce with potatoes and roasted mushrooms. Polletto Ruspante al Mattone ($23.95) highlights a traditionally grilled chicken beneath a brick, with rosemary and garlic, and serves it with caramelized brussel sprouts, potatoes, and a white wine sauce.

Due to the popularity of this spot, and the small size of the restaurant, reservations at Ristorante Bartolotta are recommended.

Milwaukee's best Italian, 2009: Ristorante Bartolotta

OnMilwaukee.com
October 27, 2009

For a decade or so, Joe Bartolotta has run one of the most consistently great Italian restaurants in town. And thanks to head Chef Juan Urbieta, the menu has never gone stale.

Urbieta and his crew create great special menus, including ones that focus on the bounty of regional Italian cuisine, spotlighting the diversity of Italian cooking, as well as winemaker dinners that pair great wines with special menus. So, if you're looking for red-checkered tablecloths and 10 versions of spaghetti and meatballs, you'll have to go elsewhere.

If, on the other hand, you like seafood, polenta, risotto, a wine list worthy of exploration, warm and crusty bread, a comfortable atmosphere and an attentive, knowledgeable staff, Ristorante Bartolotta is still the place to go.

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