Andy Pforzheimer

Cofounder of the Barcelonas and the Bartacos
Andy Pforzheimer. Photo by Tony RinaldoAndy Pforzheimer. Photo by Tony Rinaldo
By Pat Harrison

C. Andrew Pforzheimer ’83, known as Andy, moves and speaks quickly, with an abundance of energy. So perhaps it’s not surprising that he and his business partner, Sasa Mahr-Batuz, have opened 13 restaurants since the mid-1990s and are planning to open more. Their first was the Barcelona Restaurant and Wine Bar, a tapas and wine bar, in South Norwalk, Connecticut, near Pforzheimer’s home. It was followed by eight more Barcelonas, as he calls them, and four Bartacos, which replicate the feel of a beach bar. The Barcelonas and Bartacos are located up and down the East Coast, in Atlanta, Boston, New Haven, Washington, DC, and other cities.

Each restaurant is different, with its own look and atmosphere, and the chefs have great latitude with menus. “The key for us is that the place be fun and feel like a neighborhood restaurant,” Pforzheimer says. “You can’t really do that with cookie-cutter recipes and cookie-cutter chefs.” Part of the training for the Barcelona chefs is an expense-paid trip to Spain, where they get firsthand experience of tapas and wine. “It’s unusual,” Pforzheimer says. “It’s a nice perk—but from our end, there’s no better training.”

Another place Pforzheimer puts his prodigious energy is the Schlesinger Library Council, which he joined in 2012, following service there by his cousin Edith S. Aronson ’84, EdM ’87. Asked why he agreed to serve on the council, Pforzheimer talks about his family’s strong tradition of philanthropy at Harvard and the passion his grandmother Carol K. Pforzheimer ’31, who died in 2010, felt for Radcliffe. “It makes sense that we stay involved with Radcliffe as a kind of ongoing memorial to my grandmother,” he says.

There’s also a strong tradition of bibliophilia in the Pforzheimer family. “We’re all reverential about books,” Pforzheimer says. His great-grandfather Carl H. Pforzheimer Sr. collected the works of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his contemporaries, including Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, which the family foundation donated to the New York Public Library.

Pforzheimer used the Schlesinger Library’s culinary collection during his undergraduate days, when he took a course on food in history and literature. Now he has his own culinary collection, which includes many old French cookbooks.

After working in restaurants during high school, Pforzheimer found work at Paco’s Tacos when he moved to Cambridge to attend Harvard. Determined to be a chef, he took time off from college to live in France for 18 months and train as a chef at L’Ermitage de Corton. When he returned to Harvard for his junior and senior years, he worked two nights a week at Upstairs at the Pudding. After graduating, he worked at a series of restaurants in California and New York City before becoming the food editor at the magazine Martha Stewart Living. Soon, though, he needed to return to the kitchen. He started a catering company in his house, and one of his first clients was his future business partner, who had the idea of opening a tapas restaurant.

Today Pforzheimer spends most of his time traveling—looking for new locations for the Barcelonas and Bartacos—or signing checks and “beating on people,” as he puts it, in his Connecticut office. He and his wife, Zelie Daniels Pforzheimer, have three sons, two in college and one in high school. His wife won’t go to any of the Barcelonas or Bartacos with him, Pforzheimer says, because “she doesn’t like the way I hop up from the table every two minutes.”

Where does he see himself in 10 years? “Fishing,” he quips. Then he amplifies: he intends to continue teaching at a local community college and to pursue his board work, such as serving on the board of finance in Wilton, Connecticut, where he lives.

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