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Joe Bartolotta, co-owner of Bartolotta Restaurants, dies at age 60

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The co-owner of The Bartolotta Restaurants, Joe Bartolotta, has died at the age of 60. 

The restaurant group says Bartolotta died Monday night in his sleep. 

Joe Bartolotta owned the Bartolotta Restaurants with his brother, Paul. Joe was the president of the company and Paul is an award-winning chef. Their first restaurant, Ristorante Bartolotta opened in 1993. The group now operates 15 restaurants and catering facilities. 

“Somebody that I looked up to and somebody that even while I was going through certain things, I could call him and he would always take my call,” says Omar Shaikh, president and co-owner of Surge Group.

Shaikh says Joe had a big passion for his community and giving back.

“Whether it’s families, whether it’s the hungry he participated in so many things and was so instrumental in helping build the community,” says Shaikh.

Joe even played a role in bringing the Democratic National Convention to Milwaukee.

“He made the pitch on behalf of the restaurant industry to those people who were making the decisions and did a phenomenal job in selling our city,” says Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Bartolotta supports local charities and organizations including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, The Meta House, and The Humane Society.

He partnered with Milwaukee Public Schools to share his culinary passion with students.

“That’s an example of his paying it forward,” says Barrett. “Making sure the young people in this community have a chance to support their family.”

In February, he celebrated six years since a kidney transplant that was donated by his brother-in-law.

People say he’s a man who will truly be missed.

“They know they have a lot of friends here in the community,” says Shaikh. “If there’s anything I or we can do to help we’re 100% there.”

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