MONTREAL: Alnoor Sayani, the owner of the popular Lahore Tikka House on Gerrard St. E. in Toronto’s Little India community died of heart failure on Nov 6. He was 48.
“He was one of the most creative and business-minded people,” said Muhammad Saleem, who knew Sayani for 22 years and operated a grocery store across the street for 17 of them.
“He used to sell barbecued corn on the street. He used to sleep in his car. He didn’t have a house. He started the restaurant and started building slowly, slowly,” Saleem said. “He created a legacy for himself.”
A Ugandan immigrant of Pakistani descent, Sayani came to Canada by way of England when his parents fled Idi Amin’s brutal regime.
Sayani arrived in Canada at 15 with nothing in his pockets, said longtime friend and Ward 30 councillor Paula Fletcher, who was notified by restaurant staff that their “beloved boss” had died.
Sayani opened Lahore Tikka House in 1996 with just a few tables, according to a Heritage Toronto report. It quickly became a hub for the South Asian community, and over the years transformed into an authentic Pakistani experience and neighbourhood icon.
“He was a real gem of a man,” said Shahid Hadi, who met his future wife at the Lahore Tikka House and brought his family there to dine whenever they visited from Pakistan. They were always impressed with the food’s authenticity, but more so by their gracious host.
Sayani took his role in the community seriously. He hired many Pakistani people to work in the dining room and kitchen. He promoted Pakistani holidays, like Independence Day in August and Pakistan Day in March.
Lahore Tikka House was the scene of countless festivals and celebrations, Chintaluri said.
Sayani leaves behind a wife, Gulshan, and two children. The restaurant was closed Nov. 6. but has since reopened.
A funeral is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 9 at the Scarborough Jamatkhana, 695 Middlefield Rd.