Food & Wine

A Taste of Spain

By Carolyn Jung

When it opens its doors in June in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village, Telefèric Barcelona will invite guests not only to “escape to Barcelona, no passport required,” but to do so in high style. Housed in the former Calafia Café spot, it marks the second Bay Area outpost for the Barcelona-based establishment, following its Walnut Creek locale that opened in 2016. Like that one, the Palo Alto restaurant will feature a roving pintxos cart, spicy sangria and cooked-to-order paellas. It will also boast more luxury ingredients spotlighted in dishes, as well as a retail marketplace selling imported Spanish goods — the first one ever in the United States or Spain by the Telefèric Restaurant Group.

“After having success in the East Bay, we wanted to expand,” says Xavi Padrosa, co-owner of Telefèric Barcelona, which also has three locations in Spain’s Catalonia region. “We thought the other side of the Bay would be very interesting.” Padrosa should know, having lived in Palo Alto from 2005 to 2012 while studying marketing at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills and Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

Padrosa, who now splits his time between the Bay Area and Barcelona, fell hard for Palo Alto, feeling especially at home among its sophisticated residents who are global travelers. So when Jim Ellis of Ellis Partners, owners of Town & Country Village, approached him about taking over the vacancy, Padrosa jumped at the chance. He had done the same when developer Brian Hirahara, who happened to fall in love with Telefèric Barcelona while on his honeymoon, promptly asked Padrosa to open one in the new building he was constructing in downtown Walnut Creek.

Each Telefèric Barcelona has a different design. If the Walnut Creek one is more traditional Old World Spain, the Palo Alto one has a more modern aesthetic. Top European design firm Tarruella Trenchs, which created the interior of Spain’s Michelin three-starred El Celler de Can Roca, joined with Oakland architecture firm Arcsine, which designed Telefèric Barcelona in Walnut Creek and Wursthall in San Mateo, to give contemporary Spanish flair to the145-seat restaurant that also has 25 seats outside. Red and brown hand-made Spanish tiles grace the bar, kitchen and market countertops; woven, basket-shaped light fixtures imported from Spain hang from the dining room ceiling.

Executive Chef Oscar Cabezas, who oversees all the Telefèric Barcelona restaurants and will be based full time in Palo Alto at the start, has created dishes such as squid ink paella with shrimp, clams and cuttlefish, and a Spanish Caesar salad with espelette dressing and aged Manchego; as well as chilled octopus salad, Iberian ham croquetas and pimenton deviled eggs stocked on the dim sum style cart that will roll to tables. Padrosa also expects his Palo Alto clientele to warm to the oxtail and extra pungent spreadable chorizo that will be prominent on the menu.

After Padrosa’s mother opened the first restaurant in Barcelona 25 years ago, he and his sister Maria decided to expand the concept. They’re scouting more locations, though the next one likely will be outside the Bay Area. Even so, Padrosa couldn’t be more thrilled to be back in his old stomping grounds. “Palo Alto was the first place I landed in the United States when I was 16,” he says. “Now, I am coming back to the city where everything started.”

Q&A with Xavi Padrosa

Illustration by Iris Lei.

What’s your favorite cuisine after Spanish? I am a big fan of Italian food, for its simplicity and fantastic versatility. Who doesn’t like an authentic Italian pizza? Italians don’t complicate things.It’s just simple products with great quality.

If you could only eat one Spanish dish for the rest of your life, what would it be? Without a doubt it would be paella! Paellas are a complete dish, full of different tastes. No matter what ingredients you add, with a good base of rice it will always taste amazing.

Are you a fan of Real Madrid? My team is Barça — no negotiations allowed. It’s hard to meet people from Barcelona who support our big rival Real Madrid. I am a huge soccer fan and big follower of Barça. I watch their games from the United States, even if I have to wake up at 4 a.m. because of the time difference. I have been to the last four European finals. This tells you how crazy of a fan I am.

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