By Aram Arkun
WATERTOWN – The Flaming Pit (in Armenian, Varvogh Tonir) is a new wood fire grill and pizza restaurant and caterer newly started last fall by Tigran Yesayan in Watertown at 222 Arsenal Street. It offers Armenian and Caucasian specialties like Ajarakan khachapuri (a delicious combination of eggs and cheese in dough that is boat-shaped and cooked on the grill), various types of kebabs and barbecued meats, and vegetables grilled Armenian style and mixed into a salad. Even among the pizzas, one version called Ardora includes pastirma (basturma). Alongside the Armenian items, the Flaming Pit offers American favorites like hamburgers, French fries, chicken wings and chicken fingers, as well as Italian items like calzones, strombolis, cannolis and zeppolis.
Yesayan left his native Armenia when he was 19 in 2002, and later his parents joined him. In Armenia, Yesayan studied at the University of Physical Culture for two years before emigrating, and was a weightlifter. He wanted to explore the United States and worked in a fast-food restaurant for a few months in the Washington D.C. area. He traveled a lot and then in September 2003 moved to Boston in order to go to school. He graduated Mass Bay Community College with an associate’s degree, and then to Northeastern University. In both schools he studied accounting, so he ended up in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting.
Yesayan accrued some experience in American restaurants while pursuing his education and acclimating to life in the United States. He worked in an American restaurant owned by an Armenian in Maryland for eight or ten months before moving to Boston. In Boston he worked for Charley’s Saloon downtown on Newbury Street, Bertucci’s, and briefly at a pizza place on Mount Auburn Street which no longer exists. In 2005 he became involved in the construction business while going to school. All that time he said, “I always had the idea to open a restaurant.”
Yesayan also knew he wanted to open his restaurant in Watertown. Aside living in Watertown himself and not wanting to drive a distance to the restaurant, Yesayan said, “I think the number one reason is because of the Armenian community, then, the growing American population here, and third, all the buildings coming up. I could already see what was happening, especially to Arsenal Street, with the Arsenal project, the apartment buildings here, and the growing Armenian community.” He feels that within the last ten years a lot of Armenians have moved there from Armenia and even California. Even Yesayan’s landlord is Armenian.