Scouting report: Ristorante Bartolotta
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.
Ristorante will also start welcoming diners for a holiday lunch menu on Nov. 30, featuring Panini, salads, soups, and entrees of risottos, pasta and fish or meat selections.
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I have not made it to the Wauwatosa location but I used to love the location on Downer. I was upset when they closed. Need to get out to the Wauwatosa location. I always felt like Bartolotta needs to have a "mid-level" restaurant downtown. Something like Marcella's (http://www.marcellasristorante.com/) would do great I think.
Ristorante Bartolotta has excellent food and superb service. The environment is cozy & comfortable, you can dress up or wear jeans. Last time my husband & I were there (Nov 7), Paul Bartolotta went around to each table thanking the guests for dining there. I know there are many great restaurants in the city, but it's tough to ever pass up an opportunity to go to Ristorante.
Speak The Truth - they say history is a bunch of lies we have all agreed upon...When speaking truth it's all relative from what context and perspective. I would say at best your "truth" is somewhat opinionated, uninformed and inaccurate at best. Ristorante is a fine restaurant serving consistent quality food for many years. The Bartolottas never ran Dream Dance they only consulted for the first three years. And as as the other concepts such as Northpoint, Discovery World and the airport gig, those eateries serve a purpose as well, they also help bring revenue to supplement the other concepts. FYI - On Milwaukee Editors chose Ristorante as the best Italian restaurant for 2009, so because you have eaten in some restaurants in town now your some kind of expert? Here is some real truth - opinions are like a_______s everyone has one and for the record I have never worked for either the OMC or the Bartolottas.
I like Ristorante, but it is clearly the weakest link the Bartolotta Restaurant Group. Lake Park Bistro continues to set the bar for both food and service. The setting is wonderful and the energy is palpable. Bacchus is unlike any other restaurant in Milwaukee--you feel transported--by the food, the staff, and the atmosphere. I don't love Mr. B's, but as steakhouses go, I would only put Carnevor in the same category in terms of the food and quality of the experience. Ristorante, however, has always seemed like an afterthought for the Bartolotta crew. The location should be inviting, but it isn't Pizzeria Picolo and the schtick at the airport are kind of demeaning to the Bartolotta name, so I don't even consider them "restaurants" in the same way that the other places are. ...and Dream Dance was never the same after they quit running it.
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