Colorful Presentation: Ahmad’s Persian Cuisine Brings People TogetherOct 27, 2020 04:56PM ● By Tim Trudell
Most business owners may decide to call it a career when, after nearly 30 years in the same location, they’re informed that their lease will not be renewed. Ahmad Nazar is not most people.
The 67-year-old restaurateur was determined to find a new location for Ahmad’s Persian Cuisine when he learned his restaurant would lose its Old Market location at the end of January.
Instead of bowing his head is despair, he sought the perfect new location, and in less than four months, he reopened at 4646 Dodge Street. In the midst of a pandemic, with restaurants either temporarily closed or only offering curbside pick-up, Nazar persevered.
“I wish I would have done this five years ago,” he said. “My customers are out here, in the Dundee area. They come from Bennington, Elkhorn. They come from all over, even from downtown.”
When Ahmad’s Persian Cuisine reopened, it initially offered curbside pick-up. And with free parking near the front door, it quickly proved successful, Nazar said. Once the dining room opened, he ensured they maintained a safe distance between tables for customers.
Visitors to Ahmad’s new location will find a different atmosphere. Besides the traditional Persian music quietly playing in the background, large colorful paintings hang on three walls. With 49 such paintings, Nazar plans to rotate them.
“I want to make sure that when [customers] come, every two months they see that things change,” he said. “Make them relaxed. Make it like their own home. Their own dining room.”
While the location is different, the menu remains the same, with fan favorites such as Tehran Chicken, featuring a chicken tenderloin marinated in saffron and lime, along with 12 more spices, and served with rice and a cooked tomato. Even the dinner salad has a unique dressing, a personal creation with yogurt as the base.
“You need to take a bite of the chicken, tomato, and rice together to get the true flavor,” Nazar said.
Persian cuisine isn’t overwhelming or spicy, Nazar said. Instead of spices such as curry, Persian food relies on seasoning that enhances the taste, he said. You’ll find sumac, cumin, ginger, and turmeric among spices used by Persian chefs.
Nazar said he wasn’t always good at cooking. “I was 14 years old when my mother put me in the kitchen,” he said. “‘Watch me,’ she said. She peeled food and put it in the pot. Added spices. The next day, she told me to make the same dish.”
Nervous, the teenager cooked it as he thought he saw his mother do.
“It was tasteless,” Nazar laughed. “I was nervous, so I asked my brothers and sisters. They told me to taste the food as I go. After three or four dishes, I got it.”
The student succeeded.
“She was here visiting before she passed away. ‘That’s my son,’ she proudly proclaimed,” Nazar said.
A colorful presentation is also key to a successful meal, with spices adding to the color of the meat, along with the rice, red tomato, and green salad, he said.
“You want it to be as colorful as a Persian rug,” Nazar said.
With the care he puts into preparing an excellent menu, he has found fans who continue to support the restaurant. Dr. Bob and Sue Roesch of Fremont celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary. The couple have been loyal diners since Nazar opened the original location near 10th and Howard streets.
“We celebrate all our major events here,” Sue said. She recommends the Persian Split [not on menu], which is a combination of chicken and shrimp, served with with rice, tomato, and a salad.
The couple were in Las Vegas when someone asked them where they were from. When she replied Nebraska, the person asked if they’d dined at Ahmad’s.
“Imagine being in Las Vegas and someone asks you about Ahmad’s,” she said. “What are the odds?”
While they loved the Old Market spot, they prefer the new location, she added.
“It’s a shorter drive,” Bob said.
Clearly, loyalty to Ahmad’s extends beyond Nebraska’s borders. Mike Perini, who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has had a meal at the restaurant about twice a year for more than two decades while visiting relatives. He followed Ahmad’s from the Old Market to Dodge Street.
“I love the variety, spices, and flavors,” Perini said.
The Iranian native immigrated to the United States in 1979 to attend dental school at Creighton University.
A former member of the Shah’s army, Nazar was surprised when, two months after arriving in Omaha, the revolution occurred and the government of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was overthrown, replaced by Islamic leadership led by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
“We (his family) were more cosmopolitan, not that religious,” Nazar said.
His parents remained in his hometown of Abadon, south of Tehran.
“I went back to visit about 10 years later [after the revolution],” he said. “It was OK. We were treated well.”
He hasn’t been back to Iran since 2005, following his mother’s death. An American citizen now, Nazar has lived in Omaha for most of his life.
“This (the United States) is my country,” Nazar said. “It’s like I was born here. My kids were born here.”
Though he started his education at Creighton, he decided he was more interested in business than dentistry, and graduated with a business degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
After waiting tables at several restaurants in Omaha, friends encouraged him to introduce Persian food to the scene. Ahmad’s Persian Cuisine caught on quickly, he said.
Today, Nazar’s goal is to provide a great experience for diners, no matter where they’re from. “Food brings people together,” he said.
Visit ahmadspersiancuisine.com for more information.
This article was printed in the November/December 2020 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.