Mahasti Vafaie started her small business as most people do – with a big learning curve in front of her.
An engineer who wasn’t particularly happy with her career choice, she returned to school with the vision of becoming a doctor.
Then a 1990 trip to New Orleans with her mom led her in a new direction.
“I had been working as a waitress and managing some catering, and while I was in New Orleans I thought I’d come back (to Knoxville) and open a restaurant,” she said.
“I didn’t really have a vision when I opened it. I didn’t want ferns and brass, which is what we had in Knoxville at the time. Originally I wanted a French bistro, but the space that I found on Market Square had a pizza oven, and the landlord didn’t want to move it. I didn’t want to open a pizza place, but I thought about it over the weekend and leased the space from him.”
And with that, The Tomato Head was born, serving pizza only at lunchtime.