Siena’s Vegetarian Pizzeria and Restaurant in Rockville, Maryland, will move later this summer from its current Twinbrook Parkway location to the Randolph Hills Shopping Center, right next to kosher grocery Moti’s Market. Siena’s owner Ramesh Zadeh recently talked with Kol HaBirah about the restaurant's history, her professional background, and the upcoming move.
What can you tell us about Siena’s history?
Ramesh Zadeh: Siena’s has been around for more than 15 years and has always been kosher. We consider it a full service vegetarian restaurant. Many vegans and vegetarians love eating with us due to our numerous salads and large menu selection — we even have a soy based shawarma. [The shawarma was offered to this writer and was delicious.]
Before I came to Siena’s, I was an operations manager at Marshalls for 12 years and a manager at Filene’s Basement for six years. After running others’ businesses for many years, I decided I wanted to run my own business, so I bought into Siena’s as a partner in 2009, and then bought my partner out four years later. That was when we moved from our Woodglen Drive location to where we are now.
What has your experience been like owning a kosher food establishment in the Greater Washington community?
RZ: Many of our customers are like family; I know them by name and love talking to them. It’s really nice, especially as most of my extended family is in Iran or Israel.
I work very hard, but whenever I retire, it will be boring and I’ll miss my customers. [Ramesh laughs. Her husband Farid chimes in to the conversation.]
FZ: Ramesh works very hard. She is here almost every day for 11-12 hours — and in the winter the restaurant is open on Saturday night as well.
RZ: Last Thursday, I missed my daughter’s graduation from podiatry school because the oven wasn’t turning on so I needed to come in to find someone to fix it. There were orders that needed to be fulfilled, and I needed to be there. It’s completely different to run your own business than someone else’s.
In the last year, we’ve seen two more new kosher establishments in Montgomery County: Oh Mama Grill and Holy Chow. Do you think the demand for kosher is evolving in the area?
RZ: I would say that 80 to 85 percent of our customers are from Silver Spring.There is less demand for kosher dairy, especially in Rockville. I don’t know that kosher demand is growing, as people tend to try out new locations, but then get used to the food after a while and things slow down. We’ve also seen other kosher eaters move to New York or Baltimore.
Why are you moving again after five years at your current location?
RZ: We’ve wanted to move for a number of years now. There is more kosher-eating foot traffic in Randolph Hills shopping center, the rent has been increasing at this location, and there is less parking here. When the location next to Moti’s Market became available, it made sense to make the transition. We actually looked into Silver Spring, but it was hard to find a location that had free parking.
How has the transition been coming along?
RZ: The landlord of our current location, Allen Kronstadt, has been very helpful and accommodating so we are thankful for that. We like our new location, and plan on starting renovations in July and hope to move in August.
What changes are you making to the new location?
RZ: We are working on bringing in beer and wine, and we will also promote the venue for events such as bar/bat mitzvahs. We will also bring our Mexican menu back such as our quesadillas and burritos because we’ve had a lot of requests to do so from our customers.
Additionally, we currently send pizza to JDS [Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School], which is right nearby, every week, so we hope the JDS students and families frequent us even more often now.