Last week I was on the phone with my cousin chatting about her recent trip to Iran. She spent the whole time in Tehran, visiting family. One day, she told me, she took the metro–yes, there is a metro in Tehran, I didn’t know either!–from the Northern end of the city to the center. She wanted to visit a café where she used to spend time as a young woman, and that she hadn’t visited in decades. My ears perked up.
“What’s the name of the café?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s a really old place called Café Naderi. We used to go there for ice cream and coffee,” she said, sounding confused as to why I’d want to know the name of some café in a country I’ve never been to.
I couldn’t wait to tell her I’d been hearing about the place for nearly a year, “Yeah, I know all about it! I helped open a place called Café Nadery in New York, it’s an homage to the original in Tehran!”
The timing of our conversation was ironic, because this excellent review of Café Nadery (note the use of a “y” instead of an “i” to differentiate the name from the original in Tehran) was just published in the Tables for Two column in The New Yorker. I could tell from her voice that my cousin, who lives in Orange County, CA, couldn’t quite believe that what I was saying was true, so I sent her the story to prove that yes, the legacy of that special café, which was explained to me as the Les Deux Magots of Tehran, lives on in New York.
I had the honor of designing the menu for Café Nadery when it opened back in the summer, training their cooks to make a mix of traditional Persian dishes, and some new creations inspired by Silk Road flavors and ingredients. But it’s not just the food that makes Nadery so special. Nadery is a little pocket of Tehran in New York City. They hold performances of Persian music, political talks, and poetry readings, among other events. There is art by Iranians and Iranian Americans throughout the restaurant. They even show soccer matches of Team Melli, the Iranian national team, on a big screen!
I’m so proud to have helped shape Café Nadery. When I go to Iran this year, you can bet that the original Café Naderi is on my short list of places to visit. Maybe I’ll bring the review!
16 W. 8th Street, New York, NY, 10011, 212 260-5407
Photograph by Malú Alvarez, courtesy of The New Yorker.