For Omid Zahedi, it started with a love of making pizza dough.
In the months before his first son was born some eight years ago, Zahedi carefully refined his homemade pizza dough recipe, baking pies with Italian yeast and a select few ingredients on a pizza stone in his home oven. His wife Susan Payrovi remembers it wasn’t long before Zahedi had a wood-burning pizza oven delivered to their Foster City home with the expectation they could install it in the family’s backyard before putting it on a trailer they keep in their garage when it didn’t fit.
Pizza fundraisers held in the family driveway soon led to a search for a restaurant space culminating in the couple’s Burlingame restaurant, Rise Pizzeria, which opened at 1451 Burlingame Ave. in late 2016.
Now the pair is setting their sights on transforming the downtown San Mateo train station space, formerly home to the Melting Pot restaurant, with plans to install a full-service kitchen, central bar and outdoor kiosk at the downtown transit hub.
With a second-floor mezzanine blocking the ceiling of the 5,725-square-foot space, Zahedi wasn’t initially convinced the train station building was the best spot for their next location. But after touring the space and studying the building’s detailed interior elements, Zahedi started to see how his second restaurant project could take shape.
“I looked up and I saw the huge vaulted ceilings,” he said. “That got me excited because I could quickly see we could turn this space into something that we could be proud of and it would really blow people’s minds.”
Zahedi and Payrovi took on a sizable project when they renovated their Burlingame Avenue restaurant space — formerly home to the sushi-boat restaurant Isobune — to include two wood-burning pizza ovens and an event space where birthday parties, youth sports teams get-togethers, wedding showers and business meetings have been held.
“We always wanted to … have a community place … where people could get off their phones,” said Payrovi. “It’s a place where families can come, business people can come, we’ve had all kinds of people come.”
Payrovi, who is a doctor and clinical assistant professor at Stanford University, said their take on a neighborhood pizzeria is also designed to offer the kind of fresh, healthy food they would serve to their three sons, 8-year-old Aiden, 6-year-old Adrian and 3-year-old Evan. The restaurant’s margherita pizza, which is topped with tomato, mozzarella and parmesan cheese and torn basil, and its Italian sausage salsiccia pizza, which features mozzarella cheese, red onion, chives and fennel seeds, mirror the menu items their customers order frequently, noted Payrovi.
She added the couple hopes to continue offering a monthly “Walk with a Doc” with their customers, in which individuals can ask a physician questions about healthy lifestyles, as their business expands.
With a plan to continue infusing healthy meal options into their next venture at the San Mateo train station, the couple expects to serve the pizzas their customers have come to enjoy at their Burlingame location alongside several other menu items, such as rotisserie chicken and charbroiled vegetables.
Wood-burning ovens and a rotisserie grill will allow them to expand their menu in San Mateo, said Zahedi, who added they will be able to serve craft cocktails as well as beer and wine at the full bar they plan to install in the building. A kiosk in the outdoor patio will give commuters who are in a rush a chance to grab coffee and a pastry as well as ready-made sandwiches and salads, he added.
In preparing a proposal to lease the space, Zahedi said he studied the traffic patterns of those who travel in and out of the train station, and said he looked forward to offering a place where people could grab a bite to eat before they go home or go to work or relax with family and friends at the end of the day. With years of experience in finance, Zahedi has come to enjoy designing both restaurant spaces with architect Jim Maxwell to fit the needs of the downtown visitors and workers they hope to welcome to their new location.
Though he was working full time when they opened their Burlingame restaurant, Zahedi focused his attention on their venture in August of 2017 and hasn’t looked back since, noting they also enjoy working with nearby school districts and local organizations to give back to their community. And though the couple acknowledged the many long hours that have gone into the business, Zahedi noted it’s all worth it when they see their customers appreciate the thought and consideration that went into it.
“They’re paying attention to things we’ve spent a lot of time on,” he said. “It’s nice to kind of see the fruits of your labor pay off.”
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