A Pizza Destiny
Mehdi Rashidian was destined to serve pizza. When he and his family moved to Calgary from Iran in 1989, the former pharmaceutical sales and marketing manager’s first job was delivering pizzas. He then tried his hand at everything from auto repair and dishwashing to carpentry and bus driving before he opened his first Domino’s Pizza franchise. Eventually, he owned six, but wanted a place to call his own. In 2010, he and his wife Sarah Javaheri launched Shiraz, one of Calgary’s very few Persian and halal restaurants.
Shiraz Specialty Pizza
A Unique, Non Traditional Approach
Mehdi’s own original creation, it’s the only non-traditional Persian dish on the menu. The Italian dish gets a Middle Eastern makeover, with 14 types featuring a cheese base, saffron rice and various sauces on a thin, crispy flatbread crust. “I can claim that these are the most unique pizzas on the planet,” he says. His kashk-e-bademjon (eggplant dip) pizza has proven to be an especially big hit. As has the saffron chicken breast pizza. In fact, the latter won top honours at Pizza Pigout —an annual citywide pizza contest and fundraiser.
Mehdi never believed he would be where he is today. “I feel like we’re in the right place,” he says. “We accomplished our mission to have our own business, to have the freedom to create and be innovative.” It’s been 25 years since the couple arrived in Canada, and Sarah believes they’ve been blessed and is thankful for the peace and freedom that come with living here, especially in the kitchen. “The kitchen is divided into two sections,” she says with a laugh. “My side and his side. I leave him alone with his recipes and he leaves me alone with mine.” Mehdi says it’s all about the love. “We grew together through this whole experience.” After 39 years together through thick and thin, the proof is in the pizza.
The Halal Kitchen
Shiraz serves only fresh, certified halal food. “He is fussy about his meats — he even grinds his own beef,” says Sarah. Both are adamant about also using only the freshest herbs, fruit and vegetables and ensuring there is no gluten cross-contamination in their kitchen. Both Sarah and Mehdi have always had a passion for cooking, but for different dishes. Sarah takes care of the labour-intensive stews like the traditional Persian pomegranate stew made with chicken, walnuts, herbs and pomegranate juice. Another customer favourite is green-herb stew, which is made of beef chunks, kidney beans and green herbs. Sarah’s roasted eggplant dip is also a popular draw. Mehdi’s specialties are his tender grilled lamb, chicken and beef kabobs, saffron rice, and, his pride and joy, Persian pizza.