Farhad and Gianna Rahmani are bringing Persian cuisine to Lakeland through a food truck that merges tastes from Farhad’s native Iran with flavors familiar to Americans.

The home base for the food truck, Feasts of Persia, is at 3304 S. Florida Ave. in the Marathon gas station parking lot near Walmart and across from Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen.

The Winter Haven residents – he is 54 and she is 40 – said they shifted their careers to food service based on friends suggesting Farhad make his cooking more widely available.

“Any kinds of events we had at home, whether birthdays or friends coming over for parties, I always cooked at home … Everybody always loved it and I always loved watching people liking my food,” Farhad Rahmani said.

Their signature dish is a kabob burger, a grilled burger made with a mixture of beef and lamb. Other popular meals include the shish kabob sandwich and the chicken wings kabob.

The shish kabob sandwich is made of grilled beef steak bites marinated in Persian spices mixed with grilled onions and peppers that one would typically see on a skewer but instead, the Rahmanis serve it on sub sandwich bread.

The chicken wings kabob is grilled chicken wings seasoned with Persian spices and fries. One of the spices Farhad uses is sumac, a tangy crimson spice often used to season kabobs in the Middle East.

The food truck’s home base is the parking lot of a Marathon gas station on South Florida Avenue.

“We wanted to combine the Persian food with American favorites, so chicken wings is a huge American favorite,” Gianna Rahmani said. “There’s a lot of people who are in the military who have been in the Middle East, and they’ve been looking for a kabob option and they come and tell us stories about their time in that area and the kind of food they ate. We love having conversations with them.”

“We have people that are so happy. They say they have to drive to Tampa to have this type of food. Then, there are people who’ve never had kabob. Then they try it and love it and they come back,” Farhad Rahmani said.

Farhad sought religious asylum in the United States and moved here in 1989 from Tehran, Iran. He said he was born into a family who practiced the Baha’i faith, a religion that has faced persecution in Iran, especially after the 1979 Iranian Islamic revolution.

Farhad first lived in Philadelphia and then made his way to California, near Berkeley, where he met his wife, Gianna, while working for a property management company. Gianna was born in the Philippines but moved to the United States when she was seven with her family.

Both worked in real estate in different capacities over the years. They had two children along the way, Nikolas, 18 and Dominik, 17, who both work occasionally at the food truck.

The family moved to Florida in 2018. Farhad was flipping houses, when in 2022, he decided it was time to pursue his dream of opening a business serving Persian dishes to the public. The couple opened the food truck in December.

He found the location by walking down South Florida Avenue from downtown and talking to various business owners who he thought could accommodate them. The owner of the Marathon gas station was receptive.

“It’s a great location. There’s a lot of traffic,” Farhad Rahmani said.

The couple said they chose a food truck because they like the idea of being mobile. Nowadays, they’re often on the road, selling food outside Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, and breweries like Brew Hub and Grove Roots Brewing Co.. They advise people to check their Facebook page before coming, to find out if they’re at their normal location, the Marathon gas station, or on the road.

When they’re not on the road, they are at the Marathon gas station Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Farhad said opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant is not out of the question, but he’d like to introduce his food to more locals first.

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Stephanie Claytor has been a broadcast and digital journalist in Lakeland since 2016, covering Polk County for Bay News 9 and currently free-lancing for LkldNow. She is an author of travel and children's books.

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