Like most people of his generation, Joe Bartolotta has many fond memories of dining at supper clubs as a child. Throughout the years working in the restaurant world, Bartolotta always maintained a soft spot for the supper club concept. That led him to create Joey Gerard's in 2012.
"Things are generational in many ways. The older generation can relate to the supper club because they lived through them. People who are in their 20's, 30's, and 40's may have not been able to experience the supper club. So, we wanted something that would invoke a style of food quality and some of the classic traditional dishes of a supper club but still would target a vast demographic." Bartolotta said.
From the moose on the wall to the traditional dishes, Joey Gerard's in many ways embodies the classic supper clubs of old. However, in other ways, it steps outside the mold of the typical club. That's just how Bartolotta wants it.
No one knows supper clubs like author and filmmaker Ron Faiola.
He has spent years traveling the state visiting different clubs which he documents in his book and film Wisconsin Supper Clubs.
He says that while the supper club concept has seen a decline, they will continue to have a future as long as restaurants honor the concept.
"The heyday was the 1950's and 60's. We will never get back to that, but when I did the movie in 2010, the supper club owners were pretty concerned about the future, in fact there is a quote in the movie where the guy says they are not making new supper clubs, Now we are sitting in one and a couple years later we suddenly see this new attention being turned toward supper clubs and younger people wanting to visit the restaurant of yesteryear. " Faiola says
Getting the younger generation interested took some work, but Bartolotta and his team of chefs worked to create new dishes to cater to the modern palette. He also worked hard to design the decor of the restaurant. Bartolotta wanted to take classic styles and blend them with the latest trends.
"I wanted to somehow blend the two concepts together, so the look that we have here is a little bit more of a Hollywood type supper club. The thought of having wood paneling and deer heads and animals on the wall, I was a little uncomfortable with that concept for what we were trying to do. " Bartolotta said.
With new supper clubs like Joey Gerard's being created, it is clear that the supper club concept will endure well into the future.
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