By Debbie Atkins
For 13 years running, Nancy Saifi has been baking scratch-made chocolate cakes and coconut custard pies for Pomegranate on Main restaurant in downtown Greenville, S.C. Her husband of 43 years, Ali, opened the restaurant in 2007 as a present to the local community and a way to share his Persian heritage and culture with neighbors and visitors.
Over the years, Nancy has visited Iran several times and cooked Persian food with her husband for friends at home. She knew Iranians don’t eat a lot of desserts. There are few dessert recipes in Persian cookbooks. Iranians eat fruit and a few ice creams, she said. Though she would occasionally make desserts at home for her family, Nancy never considered herself a baker.
She asked her husband what dessert he planned to serve at the new Persian restaurant and suggested something chocolate. She offered to make a chocolate cake with her sister’s chocolate cake recipe in mind, and he agreed. They named the featured dessert 1001 Nights Chocolate Cake, a nod to a Middle Eastern folk tale. Each slice is served adorned with pomegranate molasses and six pomegranate seeds.
“I started baking chocolate cake and people liked it. I modified the recipe to get it just right,” she said. “Once you have something on the menu that people like, you don’t want to take it away, so it continued and I’m still making it today.”
Over the years, Nancy has introduced different desserts including carrot and lemon cakes. Her coconut custard pie joined the chocolate cake as popular desserts. The restaurant also offers a traditional saffron pistachio ice cream and specially-created pomegranate mint chocolate chip ice cream.
“We always have the chocolate cake and the coconut pie has pretty much become a staple,” she said. “Everybody loves them and they’re different from one another.”
For the past five years, the restaurant has donated proceeds from sales of her cake during the month of February to support the Salvation Army of Greenville Sweet Desserts campaign.