Consumed: What Franco Stalteri, the founder of Charlie’s Burgers, ate last week
We're asking the city's top chefs and restaurateurs to document everything they eat and drink over the course of one week. Here, Franco Stalteri, the founder of secret supper club Charlie's Burgers
It was a pretty straightforward day at the office. When we’re not dealing with the craziness of the CB Wine Program, and when we don’t have a Charlie’s Burgers dinner scheduled, it’s all about office work: planning, meetings and emails. Breakfast was a croissant from Bertrand [Alépée] at the Tempered Room in Parkdale, and an espresso.
8 a.m.: A plain croissant from the Tempered Room and an espresso
At 11 a.m., I had another espresso at the office, then a healthy lunch that I brought from home: steamed leeks with hard-boiled egg and a basic vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, shallots, olive oil, salt and pepper. It depends on my schedule, but I try to make at least two lunches a week to balance all the eating out.
Later on, I had another espresso and a madeleine that my mother brought back from France. She always brings back madeleines.
2 p.m.: Espresso and a madeleine
For dinner, I had shaved bottarga (which I bought at the Cheese Boutique) with tomatoes and olive oil on toasted bread from Blackbird Baking Co. And I made cacio é pepe and a green salad—it would have been from my garden if it was summertime! To drink, I had a Vermentino from a Ligurian producer that was pretty perfect with the bottarga.
8 p.m.: Shaved bottarga and tomatoes on Blackbird Baking Co. bread
I stopped at Sud Forno for breakfast, but I only had an espresso and a sparkling water. The caloric intake increases exponentially after this.
9 a.m.: Espresso at Sud Forno
I then headed straight to the Cheese Boutique for a meeting with Afrim [Pristine]. I had another espresso and a lobster tail, which is not an actual lobster tail but a sfogliata filled with cream. I’ve eaten so many of them over the years because Afrim always puts one on my espresso plate—and how can I resist? There’s always an espresso ready 45 seconds after I walk in the front door—they’re such pros.
10 a.m.: Meeting at the Cheese Boutique
For lunch I went to this tasty taco place called Latin World; it’s a little Mexican shop at Bloor and Lansdowne where I’m pretty sure they only speak Spanish. I ordered a few pastors and tingas. The meal was really quick—over and done in only 12 minutes.
Around 2 p.m., we tasted the new 2015 vintage of our CB chianti. It was recently bottled in Tuscany and they sent us the first samples so we could make sure it’s right. The 2015 is even better than the 2014—it has a little more fruit on the nose—so we’re really happy about that. That was followed by an espresso around 3 p.m.
2 p.m.: Wine tasting
After work, around 6:30, I met a friend at 416 Snack Bar. We had a couple of beers, and I ordered the Eggplant Parm Double Down and the Korean fried chicken. I used to spend a lot of time at 416 Snack Bar, but I haven’t been in probably six months, so it was really nice to see the guys again. I also sipped a glass of Rocche dei Manzoni’s Nebbiolo.
6:30 p.m.: Small plates at 416 Snack Bar
After that, we went to Chantecler to check out the new menu and visit Jacob [Wharton-Shukster]—he’s one of the most hospitable people in the business. We ate the frog legs, steak tartare, the nicoise salad and some snails. I had a Chantecler lager. Jacob pulled out the Fernet after dinner—but unfortunately I’ve had trouble with fernet ever since Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver came to Toronto for back-to-back CB dinners…let’s just leave it at that.
8 p.m.: Dinner at Chantecler
My dinner date had some friends in from Burgundy and they were at Shameful Tiki. They had already gone through numerous Volcano Bowls by the time we got there. I ordered a beer—the only pilsner on the menu is Ace Hill, and it’s a great one. Everyone else had more strong cocktails that knocked their socks off—so I was pretty happy with my prudent decision.
10 p.m.: Drinks at Shameful Tiki
The morning started with coffee and brioche with homemade apricot jam. Over the week, I’ve just been slowly consuming all of the things my mother brought back from France. The brioche is from a supermarket in Paris called La Grand Épicerie de Paris; it’s a phenomenal grocery store, but the bread is just a factory-made one—it’s not some artisanal thing. A working man’s brioche.
8 a.m.: Brioche and espresso at home
Later on I had a meeting with Ian [McGrenaghan] from Grand Electric. Since I was there, I grabbed a couple of tacos—the fish and the cauliflower. Which means I had two taco lunches in a row.
Mid-afternoon, I had an espresso and some Ladurée macarons, again from my mom’s trip. Macarons are not my favourite thing to eat—I simply find them too sweet—but they were there and they needed to be eaten. Having that macaron also justified having the espresso.
2:30 p.m.: Ladurée macarons
I had a couple meetings in the afternoon at Soho house, and I ended up working from there until about 8 p.m. I didn’t have anything to eat though; I literally just had a glass of water.
Because I was already in the area, I stopped in to Le Sélect to see Albert [Ponzo] and have choucroute garnie. It’s one of my most favourite dishes in the world, and I don’t know of anyone else in the city that even has it on the menu. Oh, and Albert sent out an off-menu item, too. It was a socca, which is like a French chickpea crêpe, with carrot, cumin, squash, swiss chard, buffalo ricotta and pickled shemeji mushrooms. It was really nice and fresh and kind of spring-like.
8:30 p.m.: Dinner at Le Sélect
The dessert I always order—I haven’t looked at the menu in probably 10 years because I only ever order two things—is the île flottante. It’s one of the simplest things you can make—sugar, egg yolks, cream, milk, caramel and crème anglaise. Albert came out and sat with me for a bit. He told me that a 79-year-woman named Anastasia Lawrence comes in to the restaurant at least three times a week to make a specific set of dishes, including the île flottante. I had no idea. She says she’ll retire when she turns 80 next year, so I guess I’ll have to get my fix somewhere else.
I started the day off around 8:30, and breakfast was just espresso and a glass of water.
I had a meeting with Carl [Heinrich] at Richmond Station, and the kitchen sent out the burger—which is the best burger in the city—mini pork tacos, steak tartare, little crab cakes, as well as home fries and pickles to accompany everything.
10:30 a.m.: Meeting and lunch at Richmond Station
Later in the afternoon I was up in Bloordale, so I stopped at Brock Sandwich. I didn’t get a sandwich though—I just grabbed a couple of take-out espressos. I had some errands to run, and then I popped into Brandon Olsen’s almost-finished chocolate shop. We were texting in the morning about a pig ear paté en croute we had seen on Instagram, and he was like, “Why don’t you pop by and see the shop?” so I brought him an espresso and he showed me all of the progress he’s made. On the way out he gave me a box of the chocolates, which was perfect timing for Easter.
2 p.m.: Visit to Chocolates X Brandon
Dinner on Thursday was at my good friend Moez Kassam’s house. He loves to cook and he’s always entertaining. He’s getting married in less than two weeks, and we’re doing the wine for his wedding, so it was both dinner and a meeting to discuss the pairing options. Mark McEwan is doing the food—four courses for a 500 people! On the way to Moez’s house I stopped by Oyster Boy to grab 36 cocktail caroquet oysters. While we talked about wine, I shucked the oysters and we had a bottle of CB champagne to start. Then he made some Indian barbecue: chicken tikka, beef mishkaki and sikh kebabs. The mishkaki are East African street food—kind of like what you’d get on the streets of Nairobi. They’re really, really good. Moez pulled out a 2007 Quintarelli valpolicella, which is a really nice bottle. It probably wouldn’t have paired well with the Indian food, but we finished it before it was ready and then we moved on to another red.
9 p.m.: Oysters, barbecue and booze
Breakfast was straightforward again, some espresso and more of that brioche—I really am not that adventurous in the morning.
Friday’s always our wine-tasting day, and today we tasted some whites, rosés and reds. I can’t really talk too much about the types of wines because we like to keep it a surprise. We taste approximately 600 wines a year for the CB program—about 12 producers for 12 months—from every corner of the globe. None of them are available in Ontario, and everything we bring in is exclusively for our members. I actually don’t remember the last time I swallowed a wine during a tasting. If you want to have a productive day, there’s no way you can drink.
10 a.m.: Wine tasting
We had some bread and pecorino in the office, so I snacked on that after the tasting. That was lunch.
Good Friday dinner was at my parents. Not that we’re religious or anything, but it’s a nice excuse to eat fish. We had mussels and grilled bread to start and then we did a grigliata mista, a mixed seafood grill. There was calamari, squid, tuna, swordfish and fresh sardines, as well as shrimp. My favourite are the sardines—the smaller, fresh ones from the Mediterranean. We also had some veg, a salad and Brando’s chocolates for dessert with espresso. We drank an unfiltered white from a winery in Oregon called Big Table Farm; it’s a mix of riesling, pinot gris, gewürztraminer and a little bit of sylvaner. Oh, and we drank a few bottles of prosecco.
2 a.m.: Late-night meat pies
We went to a friend’s house for drinks after and then had a 2 a.m. snack of Finnish meat pies from Mama Raty’s. They’re made of lightly spiced ground beef wrapped up in dough, and then fried, and they’re delicious with cornichons and regular mustard like French’s. You can buy them at the Walton—the owners are friends with Marcus, the guy that founded Mama Raty’s. He’s uses his mother’s recipe.
Guess what? Brioche and espresso again.
I spent some time on St. Clair West around Dufferin, which is where I grew up. My father ran a clothing store there called La Scala for almost 50 years, so I go back every now and then. Lunch was at a small deli called Il Centro del Formaggio. I had tripa alla Romana, aka tripe with tomato sauce—after choucroute, it’s one of my favourite things to eat. I’ve been going to Il Centro my entire life; they’ve been open for, like, 40-plus years. They have the best-priced burrata and it arrives fresh every Wednesday. Fun fact about the place: Moonstruck was filmed along that stretch of St. Clair, and one scene in particular takes place in Il Centro, so there’s an old photo of Cher from 1987 hanging over the cash register.
12:30 p.m.: Lunch at Il Centro del Formaggio
Then I grabbed a couple of espressos from nearby Tricolore Bar, which is a bar-and-coffee place full of old Italian men. The espresso’s really good. I bought a few groceries—fennel, broccoli rabe, blood oranges—from Diana Grocery. The owner’s really on point with his veg, both for quality and for price. It’s probably because old Italian women are the most demanding customers—it’s best to go where they go. Oh, and I got some ciabatta from Tre Mari, which is just down the street.
1:30 p.m.: Espresso at Tricolore Bar and shopping at Diana Grocery
We had dinner at a friend’s place. Persian new year had passed, but it was kind of a Persian new year menu. My friend Nikki is of Iranian descent—she’s a designer and has a label called Narces. To start we had prosecco with mezzes: mast-o-musir, which is a yogurt-shallot dip, and kashke bademjan, an eggplant dip you have with sesame seed bread. (She sent me the names of everything because I knew there was no way I would remember it all.) The main course was a traditional new year’s dish called sabzi polo ba maui, rice with green herbs served with sea bass; and fesenjan, a pomegranate-and-walnut stew. I had a couple Steigls with dinner—Nikki’s partner Stefan is Austrian. For dessert, we had tea with Persian sweets—Nikki and Stefan made just about everything from scratch, but I think Persian sweets are just easier to buy.
I switched things up for breakfast! Espresso and Bran Flakes.
1:30 p.m.: Easter lunch and a salumeria tour
I went to a relative’s house for Easter lunch. We started with homemade salumi and I got a tour of the salumi area in the basement. There was capicola, cured sausages, pancetta and prosciutto. Then we had a ricotta, spinach and ground beef cannelloni. The filling was homemade, but dough came from Continental Noodles—it’s been around forever. The main was roasted leg of lamb and capretto with some flageolets beans and rapini on the side. Dessert was homemade tiramisu and a traditional Italian cake called colomba which is basically just an Easter version of panettone. We had a Roche dei Manzoni Nebbiolo during dinner, and I finished with an amaro del capo—and some espresso, of course.