Paul Bartolotta’s earliest recollections are of growing up in Milwaukee area as a member of an Italian-American family where life centered around the kitchen table. He began working in restaurant kitchens when only 15, and graduated from the Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Restaurant & hotel Management program.
Chef Paul’s real education in the business began with New York restauranteur Tony May, owner of San Domenico and founder of Gruppo Ristorantori Italiani, an international food society devoted to maintaining classical Italian cooking. May arranged for Paul to work and study in Italy; a six month tour of duty turned into seven years. Working at some of Italy’s most prestigious restaurants, he learned all aspects of running a fine restaurant. Stops included LoCanda dell’Angelio in Liguria (with Chef Angelo Paracucchi), Restaurant San Domenico in Imola
(with Gian-Luigi Morini, and Valentino Marcattilii, who had learned from Nino Bergese). His recollections of his travels include dining in almost every important restaurant in Italy, hunting with special dogs for the elusive white truffle, collecting mushrooms and chestnuts & visiting regional marketplaces.
Returning to San Domenico, he asked his mentors Morini and Marcattilii, as members of the prestigious French food organizations Relais & Chateaux and Tradition et Qualite, to organize a learning sojourn in France for him. He visited four establishments, three of which have been taped for the Great Chefs series,
Moulin de Mougin under Great Chef Roger Verge, Paul Boucuse in Collognes at Mont d’Or, Troisgros in Roanne and Taillevent in Paris.
In 1987 he brought all this knowledge and experience back to New York to work for Tony May at Palio under Chef Andrea Hellrigl, working nights at Palio and days on designs for San Domenico New York. Opening in 1988, it was a collaboration of May, Morini, Marcattilii and Bartolotta. Under Chef Bartolotta, San Domenico received an unprecedented 3 star review from Bryan Miller of the New York Times.
Moving to Spaggia on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Chef Paul was honored with the Distinguished DiRoNA award and the restaurant received a four diamond rating from AAA, as well as cleaned up regional and city wide awards. In 2009 he won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest, making him the first chef to receive this honor in two different regions, having been awarded Best Chef Midwest in 1994. Great Chefs taped Chef Bartolotta at Spaggia in Oct 94, just before he was recruited by Steve Wynn’s Elizabeth Blau and Great Chef Grant MacPherson to open Restaurante di Mare in the new Wynn Las Vegas. Chef Bartolotta prepared two dishes, braised red snapper and Strawberries with Zabaglione for the Great Chefs-Great Cities series, and Mussel Soup and Scampi for their Great Chefs of America series.