Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:14 pm
Bartolotta Restaurant Group is taking over all catering and restaurant operations at the Italian Community Center and plans to renovate the Third Ward banquet hall.
The long-term exclusive catering agreement between Bartolotta and the ICC, located at 631 E. Chicago St., is effective Nov. 1.
“We are thrilled to partner with the Italian Community Center,” said Joe Bartolotta, CEO of Bartolotta Restaurant Group in a statement. “It’s been an important part of our family and an important part of our heritage.”
Bartolotta also handles catering at The Grain Exchange in the Mackie Building, 225 E. Michigan St., and is the caterer for Discovery World, which includes the Pilot House ballroom and Lakeview Tent.
Under the agreement, Bartolotta will honor any existing catering agreements already in place at the ICC.
The company is not purchasing the ICC property and plans to retain the ICC’s existing 50 to 70 employees. It will implement the “Bartolotta way,” and Bartolotta employees will have the option of working at the ICC, according to Kelly Mallegni, company spokesperson.
Bartolotta is planning to introduce a new menu at the ICC, and will begin renovating various catering spaces and the restaurant of the 38-year-old, 60,000-square-foot building in early 2017, Mallegni said.
Joe Vella, president of the ICC, said the board and the ICC’s membership have embraced the partnership with Bartolotta Restaurant Group.
Vella said he and Joe Bartolotta met with ICC employees Tuesday morning and the reception was very positive.
“One of the reasons we moved in this directions is it’s time for a new identity,” Vella said. “We will still be the ICC, but it is time to bring change to the menus. We’re trying to create a new identity when it comes to food and beverage. We want to bring this to a higher scale.”
Vella, who owns Peter Sciortino’s Bakery, 1101 E. Brady St., said he and the other members of the ICC have been in talks with the Bartolotta family for several years about having the group take over restaurant operations.
“Talks would start and then not be pursued further,” Vella said. “(The ICC) is now doing very well financially, but we wanted to bring someone in who understands the restaurant business. Someone who would have a higher standard.”
For years the ICC has considered plans for big changes to its Third Ward property. In 2012, the ICC board hired a division of Marcus Investments LLC, a Milwaukee-based investment firm formed by the Marcus family, to do a feasibility study for the potential redevelopment of the ICC’s 15-acre property including the ICC building and the large parking lots to the south, known as the Coachyards. At the time, the board was envisioning a mixed-use development at the site that could include parking, retail, restaurants and hospitality, but the project never got off the ground.
Vella said this partnership will only affect restaurant operations. The facility and its parking lot will remain “status quo.”
The ICC’s deal with Bartolotta adds to the Milwaukee company’s seemingly ever-expanding business portfolio.
Joe Bartolotta grew up in Wauwatosa and opened his first restaurant, Ristorante Bartolotta, in The Village area of Wauwatosa in 1993. He and his brother, Paul, have since opened 17 restaurants in the Milwaukee area, from fine-dining establishments such as Lake Park Bistro to casual restaurants like Pizzeria Piccola.
Over the last year, the company has partnered with Phoenix Hospitality Group to open four restaurants in The Mayfair Collection development northeast of U.S. Highway 45 and Burleigh Street in Wauwatosa. The first restaurant, Osgood’s opened last year. ABV Social and Taqueria El Jefe opened in June. Café Grace will open in later this month in the same building at 11200 W. Burleigh St.
In November 2015, the company announced it would take over management of food service at the Kohl’s Corp. corporate headquarters campus in Menomonee Falls.
In December, Bartolotta signed a two-year consulting agreement with the Edgewater Hotel in Madison to manage and improve the hotel’s food and beverage department. During an interview in May, Joe Bartolotta said the agreement was going well and could be expanded.
The Edgewater has four restaurants – a steakhouse, a seafood restaurant, a casual dining restaurant and a café plus a large catering department that Bartolotta is also overseeing.