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An appetite for something more in Southern Connecticut...
With a manufacturing home-base in southeastern Connecticut for the past 40 years, you can imagine that we’ve become quite familiar with the culinary scene in Fairfield county. While not the foodie paradise of the metropolis to our south, we’ve been quite content with the classic New England seafood stalwarts and old-world Italian establishments that have dominated the Constitution State’s east coast for as long as anyone can remember.
That was until Barteca Restaurant Group’s Sasa Mahr-Batuz and Andy Pforzheimer entered the game. The celebrated chefs, world travelers, and bon vivants knew there was an appetite for something more daring along the affluent Metro North New Haven corridor. If you’ve poked around the area at all, you may have taken note. That sexy Malibu-meets-Tulum “taco villa” on the water in Westport? Theirs. The raucous James Beard-winning tapas spot with the open kitchen and a $15,000 Berkel Jamon Serrano slicer? Also theirs. With a handy assist from Culinary Director Adam Halberg, the duo has served up some of the most exciting dining experiences to hit the tri-state area in the past five years.
Let’s start with Barcelona, the group’s flagship enterprise an unassuming, award-winning Spanish and Mediterranean eatery offering the finest small plates of fresh seafood, grilled meats, and Mangialica and Patanegra varieties on the market. Cut on the world class Berkel slicer, the experience of ordering up a plate is one to be savored. On a recent visit to the Greenwich location, Executive Chef and Le Cirque and Joel Robuchon veteran Michael Lucente schooled us on the process.
While the kitchen delivers straight culinary prowess, the bar and wait staff is another force to be reckoned with. The wine list, developed by Wine & Spirits Director Gretchen Thomas (and expertly poured by the fearless Brandon at the bar) features the largest selections of Spanish, Portuguese, and South American wines in America. www.distcalc.info And the service team’s knowledge of Galician dining is unparalleled. This is no accident. Batuz and Pforzheimer make it a point to take all staff members from chefs to servers to managers on six-day culinary tours of the menu’s motherland; wine tasting in Valencia, tapas sampling in Madrid and Cuenca, and produce education on the farms of the Spanish countryside. These epic tasting journeys not only familiarize the team with the region, the landscape, and the ingredients, but reinforce the customs of Mediterranean hospitality: the art of casual repasts, unhurried meals, the feeling that you’re dining with family. The goal is to deliver an authentic experience for patrons back home. These adventurous restaurateurs want to do away with what General Manager Mike Gleason calls the “technical aspects of fine dining that infect staff in the US.”
Amazing? There is more.
The team behind Barcelona recently launched a new concept with their Bartaco collection of restaurants: a cheerful, surf lodge inspired taco eatery that doubles as the best bar scene on the Long Island Sound. The four-outpost collection delivers to Connecticut the best of many worlds delicious, freshly prepared, and reasonably priced small dishes, and a beautiful environment filled with beautiful people. What more can you ask for in the middle of a trying New England winter than some surfboards and a killer Michelada? We may not have Baja, but we have Bartaco.
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Port Chester, NY
Very special thanks to Ria Rueda on the Barteca team for her help with this article. Ria, that was an evening we won’t soon forget!
In this story: No. 169 Office