An interview with restauranteur Keivan Mizrahi
December 2004 – Keivan Mizrahi has owned several restaurants in Worcester. We recently spoke to him about his latest venture, Viva Bene Ristorante, which opened last month on Commercial Street in downtown Worcester, across from the DCU Center (formerly the Worcester Centrum).
Pulse: Keivan, how did you get into the restaurant business?
Keivan Mizrahi: I was going to college at UMASS Boston and I needed a job. I got a job at an Italian restaurant in Brookline and one thing led to another. After college, I was supposed to go to law school, but I took a year off to make money for school. I ended up buying a pizzeria in Boston and never went back to school.
P: How long in have you been in the restaurant business?
KM: 21 years, 16 of them in Worcester.
P: Why did you decide to locate your businesses in Worcester?
KM: I went into Weintraub’ s Deli on Water Street for lunch one day about 15 years ago and they had a sign that said, “Don’t buy the sandwich, buy the whole deli.” So I did.
P: It seems like you’ve owned a bunch of different places around here, how many restaurants do you or have you owned?
KM: I own Wientraub’s on Water Street and we had another one of them at the Worcester Common Outlets. Then there was Darooshi’s Pizza on Pleasant Street and Shorah’s Ristorante on Foster Street. Now I’m involved with Viva Bene.
P: Let’s talk about your latest venture, Viva Bene. What’s the menu like?
KM: It’s the same as Shorah’s, but we’re adding few new items. There’ll be more fish and some seasonal items.
P: How did the construction go?
KM: We took over the space that the nightclub Liquid Sky was in and we gutted out the place. We put in a new ceiling, a new floor and a new front. We also added a function room that seats 75-100 people. It was supposed to take six weeks, but it took 3 months.
P: What’s your favorite restaurant in Worcester?
KM: I eat at two places, Wientraub’s and Viva Bene, when I eat in Worcester. Worcester has great restaurants. When I’m in Boston, I eat at Todd English’s new place, Bonfire. I also like Helmand in Cambridge, which is an Afghan restaurant owned by the Khazi sisters. Their brother is the President of Afghanistan.
P: What is your favorite food?
KM: I love Italian and, of course, my mom’s Persian cooking.
P: What is your favorite food to cook?
KM: Anything on the menu at Viva Bene, Persian food and seafood.
P: You own one of the few successful restaurants in the Main Street area of downtown Worcester. Can you comment on that?
KM: There are some challenges and tough times, but the Mass College of Pharmacy is a big asset and the new hotel will help, as will the court house and the new mall. Housing will be a big plus for downtown.
P: Any advice for people who want to get into the restaurant business?
KM: Yes, do a lot of research and homework, make sure you know every aspect of the business before you open.