Memories of Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro
Touted as one of Milwaukee’s culinary gems, the cuisine at Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro has already won national praise that Mr. and Mrs. M. cannot possibly outdo and will not attempt to rehash here. But having always been attracted to the location and the claim to French fame, Mr. and Mrs. M chose this place to celebrate a very special evening.
When selecting one of the nicer (i.e., costlier) restaurants to celebrate a special occasion, we look not only for superb food, but superb service and atmosphere. All of these things we eagerly anticipated at Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro, as its reputation preceded it.
Upon arrival, dressed to the nines and precisely on time for our late-dinner reservation, we entered the packed main dining hall. It was a-flutter with busy servers and hosts, none of whom could be immediately summoned for help (although we stood conspicuously in need at the doorway for what seemed to be an eternity). Finally, a hostess appeared from the thick of the staff traffic and checked us in. Unfortunately, there would be a wait for an unknown amount of time before a table would be available, we were told, and seats were not available at the large, cozy bar where we stood and waited sipping cocktails.
Once a table was ready, we were seated and began to peruse the menu. But the first thing that caught our attention was the paper tablecloth covers. Tsk! Tsk! When we’re paying upwards of $100 per person, paper of any type — other than the menu and wine list — is just wrong. Coquette Café is a notable place that does go with the paper, but the atmosphere and menu accommodate that well. If you want to charge as much as a comparable restaurant like Sanford, then show us you’re worth it, right off the bat, by putting actual tablecloths on your tables, regardless of whether you have “bistro” in your name. (If it looks like an elegant restaurant, and it’s priced like an elegant restaurant, it’s an elegant restaurant and not a “bistro” where you have paper table covers).
Mrs. M. had only praise for her Filet Mignon au Poivre (pan-seared, peppercorn-encrusted beef medallion with pureed potatoes, sugar snap peas and green peppercorn Cognac cream sauce) for $37. She was quite the happy camper that evening, despite the long wait to be seated, even with reservations.
So, why are we calling this review “Memories of Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro . . .”? Well, because, all in all, we intend, at least for the time being, to leave our visit to this restaurant as just that — a memory. As we stated up front, we look for … no, we expect not only fab cuisine at an establishment with the kind of national reputation that this one has, but also fab service and atmosphere. In our opinion, it falls short in the last two categories and does not merit another trip at those prices in the near future. Perhaps, we’ll give it another shot some day, but we’ll go back to spend that amount of money at Sanford again first.
Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro
3133 E. Newberry Blvd., Milwaukee
Reservations and major credit cards accepted.
Here’s Mr. M.’s tried-and-true recipe for French-style beef steak, “just as good as Chef Bartolotta can make!” (our words, not his)
Le Biftec Français (pan-seared or grilled)
Beef steaks (one per serving) – we use filet mignon or New York strip
Olive oil, enough to coat the steaks
A pinch or two each of salt, garlic powder and ground, black pepper (enough to coat the steaks well)
Preheat your oven to 275º F while you allow the meat to warm to room temperature. Drizzle the steaks well with olive oil and season both sides of each steak with salt, ground, black pepper and garlic powder. Put the steaks in a warmed oven for about 25 minutes (until just over 95 º F internal temperature is reached). Yes, it sounds a little unorthodox, but trust us on this.)
Now you have a choice . . . on the stove or on the grill?
IN A PAN ON THE STOVE:
Put just a slight amount of olive oil in pan – just enough to coat the bottom. Heat pan on very high temperature until it starts smoking (“smokin’ hot!”). Sear the steaks just a few minutes on each side until darkly browned with a nice, thin crust; then also set them on edge to insure the edges are all nicely browned. Cook to the point that the meat springs back when pressed in the center with a finger – that signifies medium doneness.
ON THE GRILL:
These times are total cooking times. Divide in half for each side (then divide in quarters, turning the steaks 90º and cooking in that position each quarter interval in order to achieve the nice criss-cross, grill-char marks). Times are approximate and will vary depending on the type of grill, fuel, weather conditions, etc. DO NOT CLOSE THE GRILL LID – GRILL THE STEAKS “AL FRESCO!”
Thickness Rare Medium Well Heat
1″ 8-10 12-14 16-20 High
1 1/2″ 10-14 16-20 22-26 High
2 12-16 18-22 24-28 Medium
Serve with a red, French wine, a light, green salad and les “gougeons” de pommes frites (nice, fat French fries). Crumbling French blue cheese over the hot steaks adds lots and lots of just the right touch of perfect decadence, too!