Today and tomorrow Bartolotta's Harbor House, 550 N. Harbor Dr., on the lakefront at the foot of Michigan Street, is practicing for its lunch debut on Wednesday.
I went over to check it out and was amazed at the transformation. In the light of day, the transformation of the space is more visible than ever. Sunlight streams through three walls of windows, bathing the casual but classy decor constructed of dark woods and bright white table cloths with sunlight.
But even at night it's obvious. After all, the former Pieces of Eight's dated space was stripped down to nothing but a roof (which was raised to add another row of windows) and some support beams, before being reborn for this partnership between Joe Bartolotta and Michael Cudahy.
The restaurant further develops this corner of the lakefront -- which also boasts Discovery World and Milwaukee Art Museum -- as a major Downtown destination.
The menu is based on seafood, of course, and there's something pretty great about sitting at a window table, eating fried clams, gazing down at the waters of Lake Michigan, in the shadow of Milwaukee's beautiful Downtown. It doesn't transport you to Cape Cod, nor should it. Instead, it feels like heaven, eating fresh seafood right here in Brew City.
As we've come to expect from a Bartolotta restaurant, the service is top-notch, the dishes are reliably good and the atmosphere is stunning.
Bartolotta has wisely created different vibes and experiences at each of its restaurants. You'd never mistake one for the other. Dining in the Ristorante you'd never think you're in Bacchus, for example.
Here the vibe is brighter than ever and more casual. Of course you could have a romantic dinner at Harbor House, but it feels more like a place to bring a group for a lively meal. And although it's not excessively loud -- or at least it wasn't at lunch today -- it purrs at a level that makes it perhaps the most kid-friendly Bartolotta restaurant (not counting Pizzeria Piccola, of course).
Although I didn't get a chance to sit at the counter and slurp oysters today, I sure hope to get back and do just that sometime soon.
I agree with the one comment currently posted on this site. Tired of hearing about Bartolotta's restaurants. They are generally over priced and somewhat average fare. My date and I drove down once with the intention of seeing what the place was like, only to be met by a valet parking attendent who refused to let us park our own car. I advised them that I was perfectly capable of parking my own car, and was told that if they didn't park the car we weren't allowed to use the parking lot. Like they don't charge enough already!! Absolutely a rip off and I won't bother going again. Have heard that the prices are high (unlike what they advertise the place to be "reasonably priced". Who needs another over priced average restaurant.......we have enough of those in Milwaukee.
I think On Milwaukee.com is one write up away from being considered another venture of THE Bartolotta Restauarant Chain. There are tons of things going on in this city, everybody know about them. Could you write about someone else? How about anything else? I would rather read an expose piece of the Cheese Cake Factory than reather another syrupy sweet QVC article, maybe you could take reservations on this site for them....Isn't there another new restaurant open - I think it's called Spin - Go check them out - the chef's name is not Joe.
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