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In Dining

Nonna Bartolotta's was built in a space that formerly housed a Concourse D gate.

In Dining

The casual Italian eatery is a welcome addition to the airport's dining options.

Bartolotta deal with SSP boosts airport dining


Mitchell International Airport has long had a taste of Milwaukee in its concourse, with a Renaissance Bookshop and a Usinger's sausage eatery in the food court. But thanks to SSP's partnerships with the Bartolotta Restaurant Group and Alterra Coffee, the airport is more "Milwaukee" than ever.

Three former Starbucks kiosk locations are now Alterra Coffee locations and a former gate in Concourse D is now home to Nonna Bartolotta's, a hybrid restaurant based on a couple different Bartolotta's restaurant concepts.

The restaurant -- the first of two that Bartolotta will create with SSP America at Mitchell -- opened in February. Lotta Burgers -- a hamburger and custard eatery -- will open later this year on the main concourse.

SSP America operates in more than 42 airports and motorways across the USA, Canada and the Caribbean and often partners with local brands for its restaurants. It also owns a Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. at Madison's airport.

"We don't own the restaurant," says Bartolotta Restaurant Group General Manager John Wise. "It belongs to SSP, they put in all the money. It's sort of like a franchise agreement. We get a percentage of the sales. We helped with the design. These are Joe's grandparents on the wall."

The menu at Nonna Bartolotta's was created by Ristorante Bartolotta Head Chef Juan Urbieta and former Ristorante employee Drew Baker was hired by SSP to helm the kitchen at the airport restaurant.

"This is kind of like a combination of Ristorante and Pizzeria Piccola," says Wise. "It was Joe (Bartolotta's) idea. Nonna's came because we had a Nonna's out in Brookfield; that's what it was before it was Mr. B's. They wanted a pizza pasta thing and Nonna's just kind of came to us."

With a range of appetizers, pizzas, pastas and entrees that will look familiar to those who have dined at Bartolotta restaurants, Nonna Bartolotta's has a more casual feel that resembles Pizzeria Piccola with table service and expanded dining options.

The banquettes are in view of the open kitchen, there is a bar - complete with TVs and computer hookups -- at one end and a grab 'n' go panini, salad, beverage and gelato station anchoring the opposite end. Monitors allow patrons to keep an eye on departing flights.

Considering the dearth of quality eateries at Mitchell International, it's no surprise that Wise says Nonna's has been greeting with enthusiasm by regular flyers, airport employees and others.

"We get a lot of airport employees," says Wise, nodding to a nearby table. "There's the director of the airport right over there. They come in and eat a lot. On any given day there's a couple of flight crews, you see a lot of military people.

"Then there are a lot of regular flyers. Russ Feingold eats breakfast here every Monday when he flies back to Washington DC. Danny Gokey from "American Idol," every time he flies back and forth he eats here. It's nice to see that."

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Talkbacks

DowntownRed | April 20, 2009 at 9:03 p.m. (report)

Walked by Nonna's today and it looks great. Having eaten at the only other table service restaurant out in the main concourse, this is a welcome addition. However unless I my departing flight is delayed, I will probably not eat at Nonna's. It would be nice if they had designed the concourses with the restaurants in front the security gates just beyond the restaurants that way people could eat with family members who aren't flying before their flights. The Columbus airport did this and it works very well.

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curlyboy1978 | April 18, 2009 at 8:47 a.m. (report)

Is Concourse D the Midwest (I mean Delta) filled gate concourse? I would consider eating there if waiting for someone, or wasting time if my flight was delayed..but oh wait you can't get past security unless you are flying in and out of Concourse D nevermind.

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davia | April 18, 2009 at 6:59 a.m. (report)

Too bad there is no Sobelmans at the airport!

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butterbuns | April 17, 2009 at 10:23 p.m. (report)

What a blessing. The dining options in MKE are horrid. The new Alterra in C is great. Now if only the airport could somehow figure out how to allow for one security check-in with access to all terminals. As a frequent traveler, this is a pain in the arse.

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