Chef Paul Bartolotta back in Chicago with Italian recipes

November 11, 2010 9:55:54 AM PST
For many years, James Beard award-winning chef Paul Bartolotta impressed diners at Spiaggia in Chicago. Now he's showing off his talents at his namesake restaurant in the Wynn Las Vegas.

Bartolotta is one of a small number of chefs recognized as an "authentic ambassador" of Italian cuisine outside of Italy. In 1997 he earned the prestigious Insegna del Ristorante Italiano del Mondo, an award that was personally presented to him by Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. Bartolotta has developed his culinary style in some of Europe's most distinguished restaurants and now brings his simple yet refined approach to Italian cuisine to Wynn Las Vegas at Bartolotta, Ristorante di Mare. ABC7's Hungry Hound visits Paul Bartolotta in Las Vegas

(RELEASE) Here his mission is to deliver an authentic dining experience by either evoking the memory of a coastal meal that guests have experienced or to transport the guests to Italy by creating that exact experience. In fact, Bartolotta, Ristorante di Mare only serves species of fish that are indigenous to the Italian Mediterranean waters. The chef imports a ton and a half of seafood each week.

In 2009, Bartolotta won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef, Southwest, making him the very first chef to receive this honor in two different U.S. regions, having been awarded Best Chef, Midwest in 1994. Bartolotta, Ristorante di Mare received the AAA Four-Diamond award for three consecutive years: 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2006, it was nominated for "Best New Restaurant" by the James Beard Foundation, and in 2005, Bartolotta, Ristorante di Mare was named one of the "Best New Restaurants in America" by Esquire magazine.

Prior to working at Wynn Las Vegas, Bartolotta was chef and managing partner at Chicago's Spiaggia from 1991 to 2000. During his tenure, Bartolotta and the restaurant earned every major local and national fine-dining award, including the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Midwest. Bartolotta was the first Italian chef to win this much-coveted award.

Other awards garnered at Spiaggia during this period include the AAA Four-Diamond award, the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DIRONA) award, the International Food Service Manufacturers Association (IFMA) Culinary Excellence award, Restaurants and Institutions' Ivy Award, Nation's Restaurant News' Hall of Fame Award and Four-Star ratings from both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Magazine (the first time an Italian chef was awarded four stars in any major U.S. market).

While gaining national recognition at Spiaggia, Bartolotta also co-founded The Bartolotta Restaurants with his brother Joe. Today they own and operate four award- winning restaurants in their hometown of Milwaukee: Bacchu--a Bartolotta Restaurant, Ristorante Bartolotta, Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro and Mr. B's--A Bartolotta Steakhouse. Additionally, the Bartolotta Catering and Special Events Company operates exclusively at Pier Wisconsin, The Grain Exchange and the Boerner Botanical Gardens.

Paul was raised in an Italian-American family where life centered around the kitchen. Inspired by his parents' cooking, Bartolotta started working in restaurant kitchens at the age of 15. Bartolotta's cultural education began under New York restaurateur Tony May, then owner of the Rainbow Room and founder of Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani, an international society devoted to maintaining the traditions and standards of classical Italian cooking. May made arrangements for Bartolotta to study in Italy with some of his respected colleagues, and what began as a six month stint turned into an extended seven-year education of the highest order working in some of Italy's most prestigious restaurants.

Bartolotta's Italian apprenticeship began at Locanda dell'Angelo under the direction of Chef Angelo Paracucchi. Next he ventured to northern Italy's foremost restaurant, Ristorante San Domenico, where he spent more than four years learning the subtleties of alta-cucina--the cooking of the Italian aristocracy--from the founding chef and co-owner, Valentino Marcattili. In just over two years, Bartolotta earned the title of Chef di Cucina of the Michelin-rated two-star restaurant at the young age of 24.

To advance his knowledge of regional Italian specialties, Bartolotta went on to apprentice in more than a dozen restaurants from Sicily to the Alps. His experiences include hunting with dogs for the elusive white truffle, cleaning game still warm from the hunt, fishing expeditions off the Mediterranean coast and dining in almost every prominent restaurant in Italy. During his travels, Bartolotta worked at an olive pressing mill, an artisanal cheese-making farm, regional bakeries, a butcher shop and participated in the harvesting and pressing of grapes in some of Italy's great wineries. Combined with these experiences, his apprenticeships included all phases of managing a first-class restaurant.

After extensive experience in Italy, Bartolotta turned his attention to France, where he trained at three-star Michelin, Relais et Chateau and Tradition et Qualit? establishments like Moulin de Mougin under Roger Verge, Paul Bocuse in Collognes ? Mont D'Or, Troisgros in Roanne and, most extensively, Taillevent in Paris. While in Paris, Bartolotta took advanced pastry courses at Gaston Le Notre's prestigious Ec?le Le N?tre.

Returning to New York in 1988, Bartolotta spent his evenings working at Palio under Chef Andrea Hellrigl and his days developing San Domenico, New York. Under Bartolotta's direction, San Domenico received a three-star review, unprecedented for Italian restaurant, by Bryan Miller of the New York Times. It was also highly praised as one of the "Top 50 Restaurants in the United States" by Conde Nast Traveler. In 1990 and 1991, San Domenico was the only Italian restaurant to receive four stars from Forbes magazine, and Esquire magazine's John Mariani presented San Domenico with the Esky Award, selecting it as 1988's best new restaurant in the U.S.


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