Toronto has been getting roasted and doubled here for 40 years

A Toronto neighborhood has been getting its roti and doubles from a particular place for 40 years, before many people even knew what they were.

Shiraz Aligour first opened Ali’s Roti in Parkdale in 1976, naming it after a nickname he gave himself while living in Toronto, finding Ali easier to pronounce for Canadians .

Aligour used to work building large welding tanks, but slipped a disc and had to undergo surgery, necessitating a career change.

A 300 square foot space became available and Aligour started his family restaurant business with his wife Janice.

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“People didn’t know what roti was,” Aligour told blogTO, referring to one of his most popular byline posts since day one.

alis roti toronto

The restaurant serves dhalpouria and paratha roti, which now range in price from around $13 to $20 with toppings such as boneless goat, duck, oxtail stew, prawns, pumpkin and potato.

alis roti toronto

Some people come just for their doubles, which are special chickpea sandwiches that cost around $5.

alis roti toronto

Aligour says something they’ve maintained since day one is that they “do it more at home,” using original Trinidadian ingredients in their recipes.

alis roti toronto

Although doubles at Ali are relatively simple, small and affordable, they are actually made in two hours.

alis roti toronto

They soak raw chickpeas and use special spices for seasoning, and the flour texture for the doubles has to be perfect for the batter texture to be perfect.

alis roti toronto

Aligour says the problem a lot of people have is frying the dough too long: just fry it for a few seconds so it’s not too greasy.

alis roti toronto

Ali started with just these two items at first, not even being able to add rice to their menu.

alis roti toronto

In 1985 the restaurant moved to a larger space about a block away.

alis roti toronto

In the 1970s and 1980s, Parkdale was mostly populated by mom and pop Greek and Italian restaurants, and far fewer of the Tibetan and Caribbean restaurants that are all over the area now.

alis roti toronto

“People didn’t know,” Aligour said. “A new generation has arrived and introduced their friends to food, people like to try different dishes.”

alis roti toronto

As the neighborhood and community surrounding Ali’s changed, so too did the restaurant, expanding its menu in the ’80s to include chow mein and Trini-style ice cream.

alis roti toronto

Normally, during the summers, Ali would also move into the CNE Food Building, but they haven’t been able to in recent years.

alis roti toronto

However, Aligour is not one to focus on himself and has always supported food-insecure people with free or reduced-price meals, offering around 40 meals just before Christmas in 2021.

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“There are downtimes but overall it’s good,” Aligour said. “We love what we do, so that’s what makes it most interesting. There’s a special feeling you get, it’s not just about the money.”

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