Candlelight champs run restaurant built on love

2014-02-13T00:00:00Z 2015-01-07T14:24:31Z Candlelight champs run restaurant built on loveBy Gerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Harvest Restaurant’s victory over Café Poca Cosa in the Caliente Candlelight Madness competition seems like a fitting win for Harvest owners Reza and Lisa Shapouri.

It was food that brought the couple together.

The two met while working at the now-closed Coco’s Bakery Restaurant on West Drachman Street in 1986.

Reza was the general manager, recently transferred from Dallas. Lisa was the hostess.

“We clicked,” Reza Shapouri said. “In addition to her being so pretty, we also made each other laugh.”

To get past Coco’s corporate policy prohibiting employees from dating managers, Lisa quit and went to work for the University of Arizona.

The couple married in 1988.

“I loved her from the moment I laid eyes on her,” Reza said. “We still love each other very much.”

Fast forward 26 years, and Reza and Lisa are still working in food together.

The couple bought Harvest, at 10355 N. La Cañada Drive, in 2011 from the Market Restaurant Group.

From there, they went to work “casualizing the concept,” Reza said, bringing down the price point while sticking with the idea of fresh, organic and locally sourced cuisine.

The lunch menu features a selection of burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads.

Dinner rolls out more high-end offerings, such as the short rib ragout ($18.50), braised, slow-roasted ribs topped with Romano cheese and a fried egg, and the gnocchi chicken scallopini ($17.50), with prosciutto, capers, diced tomatoes and artichoke hearts, in a white wine sauce.

Lisa, who still works as a graduate coordinator for the physics department at the university, became the restaurant’s official pastry chef.

She spent years running a catering business that specialized in baked goods, Reza said.

Desserts include a triple chocolate cake ($6.50), a crème brûlée ($6.50) and a selection of ice cream flavors ($4.50 per dish), all made in-house.

“We are both really passionate about this restaurant,” Reza said. “We have nurtured it from a failing business to one that has prospered, and we are both really proud of that.”

Reza said that while Harvest is not as well known in Tucson proper, it’s a popular spot for Oro Valley residents.

The eatery has become the go-to place for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions.

“It is a tight-knit community,” Shapouri said. “Oro Valley officials are here all the time having lunch. It is not unusual for people from different tables to chat because they know each other.”

Valentine’s Day service is already completely booked.

Reza said he and Lisa will be working that day.

“It is a very busy week for us,” he said. “We are going to find a time to celebrate it when we can.”

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at or 807-8430.

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals, offers & events

View more...

Featured businesses

View more...

Get the Food & Wine Newsletter