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Barcelona By Way of Westport

Carlos Pla's Journey to DeTAPAS

Article by Meredith Guinness

Photography by John Videler

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

Carlos Pla first came to Westport on a mission – a mission to find cold-weather running gear. A Barcelona transplant – by way of Dublin, Ireland, and Miami – the newly Greenwich-based marathoner admits he wasn’t ready for December weather in New England.

Once here, however, he realized he might have something to give Westport, too: An authentic Spanish restaurant, filled with bright colors, big flavors – not the stereotypical bulls and flamenco.

“I’ve had a long career in finance and I’ve traveled to a lot of other cities,” he says. “In big cities, you always find really good French restaurants, really good Italian restaurants, but when it comes to Spanish restaurants, that wasn’t the case.” 

This made Carlos the entrepreneur and his inner chef start thinking about promoting Spanish gastronomy with the opening of his own restaurant.

“When I came here to the Nike store that first time, I went home and said to my wife and entrepreneurial partner Patricia, ‘We have to go to Westport. It’s a really nice town.’”

Not long after he learned Westport is a town of foodies who expect good restaurants. 

“I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to own my first restaurant in Westport?” 

While studying finance in college, Carlos had worked in a restaurant and knew the toil and dedication needed to open an eatery of his own. With his wife's unconditional support, he took a few months off after quitting his Manhattan job with a software company, then enrolled in the Institute of Culinary Education, a competitive college offering the kind of entrepreneurial bent he’d need.

School meant 10 months of classes every Saturday. It also helped him snag a coveted gig as a manager for Mercado Little Spain, the Eataly-esque brainchild of beloved Michelin star chef José Andrés. He was immersed in Spanish cooking and networking with some of the top purveyors in the business.

During the pandemic, Carlos launched DeTAPAS Catering, a private chef service where he was cooking some of today’s restaurant recipes at his clients backyards. Once the pandemic was over he started to look for a location and Westport was his first and only target.

In January 2022, Carlos and his team christened DeTAPAS Spanish Gastrobar, an airy, open-kitchen space serving fresh ingredients in the kind of unexpected Spanish combinations he believes Westporters will crave.

DeTAPAS’ trim but inventive menu features his own recipes, as well as delectable offerings from Executive Chef Gabriel Benitez, expertly prepared by Head Chef Roldao Carvallo and his crew.

The gastrobar offers the familiar – patatas bravas, gambas al ajillo and cured meats – as well as a grilled octopus on a delicate potato cream, tuna crudo with cilantro sauce, Kalamata olives and microgreens and a bevy of paellas featuring skirt steak, chicken, and seafood.  

Designed in Barcelona, the interior offers a cozy lounge area, a striking tile wall mural and well-spaced tables, some offering a front-row seat to the lightning-quick magic in the kitchen. 

“Spain is a very modern country,” Carlos says. “I wanted the menu and restaurant to mirror the same. Authentic, but also with a twist on some old recipes.”

Carlos, who credits his wife and staff for their hard work and support, says savvy Westport clientele seem just as thrilled with the new addition to the town’s culinary landscape as they are. 

“It takes time, but guests are very excited and interested so far.”

  • DeTAPAS interior.
  • Selection of tapas.
  • Carlos Pla