Photos by Catherine Goce
If you’ve been to Kuma’s Candy at some point this year, you probably found your feet slowing down outside its new neighbour next door. One glance at the bright yellow door and big windows of Nannaa Persian Eatery could make almost anyone want to step inside.
The décor is a special element of the experience at the eatery. The modern, youthful vibe will surely attract hungry students and elements that celebrate Westdale will appeal to the community at large. Along one wall, there is artwork purchased from the Westdale Cinema’s fundraiser to get the theatre reopened.
Restaurant owner, Mohammad Emami, wants Nannaa Eatery to become a part of the community. He grew up in nearby Dundas and has several friends and family members who attended McMaster University.
“We wanted to be very close to McMaster. This is a fast-causal concept… so it’s people who want good quality food, but not necessarily have a full sit-down meal and have to wait for service. And you know with students, with the hospital being there, with the movie theater being next door… Being here really fit,” he explained.
The most eye-catching details of the restaurant are those that reflect Persian culture. Along one wall, there is artwork from a Persian comedian, based off the work of famous Persian poet, Rumi. At the back of the restaurant, there is a graphic of a deconstructed Persian rug hanging from the wall to the floor.
However, some of the most impressive pieces are right when you walk into the restaurant. Along one wall, a series of plates are hanging and, on the other wall, there is a huge mural of an ancient Persian marketplace.
“Persians are very artistic. [These are] all hand-hammered plates that come from a city in Iran called Isfahan, where a lot of…creativity comes [from]. You have people in a marketplace that will hammer it in front of you. So we definitely wanted to have that authentic element in here,” explained Emami.
The culture is not only represented with the art, but also with the music and the staff uniform. The restaurant’s playlist will feature a variety of Persian music for customers to enjoy, alongside some English-language music. Phrases like “nooshe jan” are featured on the staff t-shirts, with the translation ‘bon appétit’ underneath.
All of this is simply the backdrop to the restaurant’s mission: to put Persian food on the map. Emami wants to see Persian food become more widely consumed.
“You’ll see other types of Middle Eastern food, you’ll see Chinese food, Indian food has grown. We are one of two or three Persian restaurants west of Toronto. So we want that exposure to happen. I think it’s about time,” he said.
Customers from all backgrounds will be able to find something that they enjoy on the menu. A section of the menu is dedicated to twists combining Persian with non-Persian dishes, such as the koobideh poutine, olvieh baguette and pulled lamb tacos. There are also more traditional Persian menu items, such as bademjoon stew and dahl addas, a curry-like potato, cauliflower and lentil stew. Several gluten-free and vegetarian options are also available.
Emami’s passion for food stems from his mother’s cooking. It inspired him to open Burlington restaurant, Rayhoon Persian Eatery and now Nannaa. He realized when he was growing up that you don’t have to be Persian to enjoy Persian food.
“I was born in Iran, but I didn’t grow up in Iran. So one of the major connections I have with Iran is the food because it was consistent in my life with my mom’s cooking. [T]hen my friends who were non-Persian would come over, have the food, and they loved it.”
Emami’s mission also includes a desire for people to learn something about Persian culture. He believes that connecting through good food is one of the best ways to do that.
“[I]f you go to Iran to visit on vacation, everyone is very welcoming. You can’t walk into a house where they won’t offer you food constantly–you can’t say no, it’s rude to say no. So it’s not only about the food, it’s about the culture, it’s about the hospitality as well,” he explained.
Whether you’ve grown up with Persian food or want to try it for the first time, Nannaa Persian Eatery has opened its doors to welcome all of Westdale and beyond.