Inside the kitchen of Ali Khan Lalani, the owner of General Assembly Pizza

Inside the kitchen of Ali Khan Lalani, the owner of General Assembly Pizza

Stocked with Mr. Noodles, homemade samosas and, of course, a killer pizza oven

Ali standing in his kitchen wearing a black button up shirt

In 2016, Ali Khan Lalani, now the owner of General Assembly Pizza, spent six months coordinating a deal to open the first Canadian location of a US-based pizza chain. But, the night before signing, he couldn’t sleep. He’d owned and sold two Swiss Chalets, and he was ready for his next venture. He realized, however, that he didn’t want it to be another franchise. “I told them, ‘I’m sorry, but I’ve got to do this myself,’” he says. “That was the day I started thinking about General Assembly Pizza.” After conducting some delicious research at pizzerias in Los Angeles, Lalani earned his own pizzaiolo certification before opening his Adelaide Street storefront in 2017.

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During the pandemic, he launched an offshoot business selling frozen pizzas. It was successful, but he sold it to Piano Piano in 2023. “I’m a hospitality person. When I’m in the restaurant, it doesn’t feel like work. After the first year, the frozen pizza business felt like work. It wasn’t what I wanted to be doing all the time,” he says. “Now I get to finish what I started.” Lalani is shifting his attention back to General Assembly’s brick-and-mortar pizzeria, with plans to introduce a new café component in collaboration with Sam James Coffee Bar.

A look at Ali's kitchen, which had green cabinets and a large white kitchen island

Lalani cooks at home most nights, but he buys the groceries he needs day-by-day rather than doing a big weekly shop. He mainly stocks up locally, in Roncesvalles, hitting spots like Russell’s Butcher and Deli and, during the warmer months, the Sorauren Farmers’ Market. Alimentari Italian Grocery is another go-to, particularly when the mood calls for a no-fuss pasta night.

A look inside Ali's double door fridge

Steaks are also a regular part of Lalani’s diet. The steak sauces, by iconic Montreal restaurant Joe Beef and New York’s equally storied Delmonico’s Restaurant, came from Russell’s.

Ali's fridge door is stocked with steak sauces

Root beer from Phillips Soda Works is Lalani’s latest obsession. “I like it so much that we’re replacing the current soda at General Assembly,” he says. And he says Left Field’s Bird Watcher lager is a necessary accompaniment to any Blue Jays game.

Ali's collection of short cans, including fancy root beer and regular beer

“I go through a good amount of cheese,” says Lalani. Much of his stash comes from Cheese Boutique. He likes to pair this St. Brigid’s Creamery butter with beans on toast.

A peak inside Ali's cheese drawer

Speaking of which, Heinz baked beans are a pantry essential. Lalani loves making them for himself and his young daughter, Mila, for breakfast. The pantry also holds Maldon sea salt (for adding a quality finishing touch to dishes) and assorted vinegars and oils from Cheese Boutique (they’re tucked in the back). He has a few boxes of mac and cheese from Matheson Food Company, celeb chef Matty Matheson’s new brand. “We used to be a big Annie’s family before I discovered these,” says Lalani.

Ali's pantry shelf

Toronto-made and chef-driven products are a theme in Lalani’s kitchen. On the right, there’s pancake mix, maple syrup and compote from Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, run by Donna Dooher—who also happens to be Lalani’s neighbour. They share a shelf with mixed nuts and plantain chips, Lalani’s go-to snacks.

Related: Inside the kitchen of Martine and Jonathan Bauer, the co-owners of Bar Pompette and Restaurant Pompette

Ali's second pantry shelf

Mr. Noodles is a nostalgic mainstay in Lalani’s home. “I’ve been eating them since I was 12, the chicken one specifically,” he says. “If I have any kale or spinach in my fridge, I’ll chop it up really finely and chuck it in along with a teaspoon of hot sauce. Then I’ll get some wooden chopsticks, sit in front of the TV and call it a day.”

A few packs of Mr. Noodles on Ali's counter

Hot sauces, mustards and other kicky condiments are Lalani’s passion. He regularly treks to ACR Hot Roti and Doubles in Scarborough to pick up their house-made pepper sauce. “It’s lemony, so a few drops in soup is great,” he says. “I also think their doubles are the best morsel of food you can buy in the GTA for under $5.” The Amaroni peperoncino is the same kind they stock at General Assembly for garnishing, and the brown jar contains a tamarind dipping sauce made by Lalani’s grandmother.

A look at Ali's full sauce collection

Whenever Lalani visits his hometown of Guelph, his mother and grandmother replenish his reserve of homemade samosas, lamb vindaloo, coconut curry and mishkaki. “I’m at a place where I need to learn how to make this stuff myself, but I haven’t gone on that journey yet,” says Lalani. I think half the reason my friends come to my dinner parties is for the samosas. Traditional Indian ones are puffier, but my family is from east Africa, so theirs are a lot thinner, and the filling is spicier.”

A peak inside Ali's freezer

Wontons from the Daily Dumpling Wonton Co. are another quick and easy meal Lalani relies on. “I grew up in Vancouver, and we had dim sum every Sunday, so this is comfort food for me,” he says. Another Toronto-based brand, Happy Pops, can always be found in his freezer, alongside gelato from Death in Venice—Lalani loves using their vanilla bean flavour in affogatos.

A look into Ali's second freezer drawer

Lalani is a level-two sommelier, and he curates the wine list for his restaurant. Chablis and gamay are his top whites and reds, respectively, to have handy for guests at home.

Ali's very full wine shelf

Rosewood and Big Head are his favourite wineries—they supply wine for the restaurant, and General Assembly runs a seasonal pop-up on the patio of Big Head’s Niagara-on-the-Lake location. Lalani considers Champagne Tarlant to be one of the LCBO’s best buys. “It’s the cheapest French champagne you can buy, but it blows anything that’s double or triple the price out of the water,” he says. The little blue bottle of junmai ginjo sake is for pairing with Mr. Noodles.

More wine, plus other favourite drinks

Lalani keeps his bar cart full and ready for hosting. Fernet-Branca is his preferred party sipper. The colourful painting above the cart is by Alexander Rasmussen; Lalani picked it up at the nearby Christopher Cutts Gallery.

Ali's bar cart, with a colourful painting over top

Lalani has had this Jura espresso machine since 2012. “I take care of this thing like it’s a child,” he says. His upcoming partnership with Sam James came about because he’s a long-time fan of their beans. “I live and die by their Butter Knife Espresso, and I have for about 10 years.”

Ali's espresso machine, stocked with Sam James coffee beans

Lalani got this pizza oven soon after opening General Assembly. “I love this thing—it emulates a wood-fired oven, so it gets up to roughly 800 degrees Fahrenheit. It cooks a pizza in 90 seconds,” he says. “Everything at the restaurant has to be consistent, but I like to mess with this sometimes and turn the temperature down to make New York–style pizza.” With basics like sauce, dough and cheese from work consistently piling up in his fridge, Lalani is always ready for a pizza party. “I’m not even close to being tired of pizza,” he says. “I don’t think I ever will be.”

Ali's small pizza over