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Meet Trambusto, the $100 million, Mike Harris–backed pizza-pasta chain that’s about to take over Toronto

Trambusto

(Image: Trambusto/Facebook)

New restaurateurs rarely launch 20 eateries in a single year. They also rarely have $100 million at their disposal, or former premier Mike Harris enthusiastically on board. Michael Lublin, however, is not a typical restaurateur. He’s the man behind new Italian fast-food chain Trambusto.

Lublin—or “Lubby,” as Harris calls him—is a character. The multi-page email he sent in response to our inquiries about the coming-soon signs appearing in Toronto storefronts was written largely in the third person, like a parable. “One day, a seasoned executive with one of Canada’s top food service brands was disenchanted with life,” it begins. The disillusioned executive was Lublin himself, and the food service brand was fro-yo chain Yogurty’s, where he worked as Chief Operating Officer. His luck turned around when he met Kamiar Zahedi, a portfolio manager with Royal Bank, who came to him with a staggering proposal: one wealthy family was willing to front $100 million to fund a new Canadian restaurant chain, and Zahedi was looking for a partner. In Lublin’s words: “I was asked, if I became the 100 million dollar man, would I change food services in Canada forever?”

Lubby answered with a resounding yes. The game plan is ballsy: the inaugural Trambusto, which launched last month at 9001 Dufferin Street in Vaughan, has a sleek design and a menu of Italian salads, stone-oven pizzas and homemade pastas priced between eight and 12 bucks (the executive chef is Shahir Massoud, former executive chef at Teatro). Leases for six more locations have already been signed, including two downtown Toronto outposts set to launch before Christmas—one in the old Hadley’s space at College and Dovercourt and the other just down the street at the corner of Dovercourt and Sudbury. Thirteen additional locations are in the works: one in downtown Barrie, another in Burlington, and six more in Toronto, including spaces at Yonge and Sheppard, Jarvis and Charles, and Queen and Bathurst. Altogether, 20 outlets are set to open over the next several months.

One thing Lublin has that always helps: connections. In his Facebook profile picture, he’s shown sandwiched between Doug and Rob Ford. Then there’s former premier Mike Harris, the chairman of the board at Tramez Restaurant Corp. (the company that owns and operates the Trambusto chain) and self-described “guide, confidante and intimate,” who responded to our inquiries with a lengthy email sent from his new Fasken Martineau domain. Harris met Lublin back in his Yogurty days and, in short, admired his hustle: “This guy’s a big dreamer,” he said, “but truth is, he’s out there fulfilling the dream. I kind of just felt compelled to play a part.” So far, Harris is finding the new venture exciting, although he admits that it’s been a challenge with his schedule.

Lublin, on the other hand, is just warming up. In addition to the Trambusto chain, he’s currently developing four additional brands, including a Cuban restaurant and a German pub. Over the next five years, he plans to roll out 500 outlets—100 for each brand. An ambitious agenda, but Harris is confident that his pal can deliver: “Most 50-year olds are coasting or winding down,” he said. “Lubby always seems to be winding up.”

  • nunnia_bidness

    Mike Harris will be the one making big cuts. To the pizzas! Ha ha! See what I did there.

    But seriously, they’ll be filling cannelloni like they’re unfinished Eglinton West subway lines, amiright? *raises hand for high five*

  • u-lock army

    Yeah. Nothing like a pizza chain to really shake up the Canadian food industry. Especially packing in 3 within a 5km radius in the West End. What a novel business concept.

  • Skeptic2013
  • disqus_AworfRRffF

    Oh good, there’s one going in the ground floor of my condo. Fucking great.

  • walrusaurus

    They’ll all go bust within 2 years tops.

  • bobby

    Just ate there….best food best value. …why did it take so long to make gourmet food fast.

  • gg

    I just hope they have a good selection of bottled waters.

  • scanner

    speaking of filled-up subway lines, anybody know how much it cost to cancel that subway? I know Whoo Dat was involved, so how much did he flush down the subway hole that time?

  • nunnia_bidness

    shill

  • Welshgrrl

    I would seriously rather eat Pizza Pizza’s dreck than support Mike Harris in any way, shape or form

  • ArmchairPundit

    What the hell is this article? Given the fact that the image is just the company’s logo, and the article reads like a puff piece written by the company itself, was Toronto Life paid to publish this? And if so, why isn’t that stated in the article?
    If this isn’t advertorial, why does the writer simply regurgitate that Lublin will “change food services in Canada forever” without asking any questions? How does he plan to do this? Surely not by serving pizza and pasta. Also, he plans to roll out 100 outlets for each of 5 new brands in 5 years? I call BS on that one. How many Canadian restaurant chains have 100 outlets?

  • 4D NAtiON 4EVER

    I ate here recently and it was a horable experience. I got horable food poisoning from something there I ate , I spent 3 day’s in the hosptial and dam near died!!1! When I was back home I called to talk to the manager who sounded like a foriner and he said yes he remembered me but then told me I shouldn’t of ate so much! He was infering that my sickness was due to overeating and he even called me a fatty (ok so I’m overweight but that’s NO reason to be rude!!). oh my stars I was so humiladed! Never will I go back against and I have all ready called the police to investigate. Don’t make the same mistake I did!

  • Steve Hartwell

    “I kind of just felt compelled to play a part” – holy $ 100 million ! where did harris get a spare 100 million – 3 guesses

  • katie

    Yup you guessed right!

  • Catherine Archer

    But will it (the pizzas) have any spices? Or sauces? Or flavours? Or will they just use substitutes?

  • katie

    spam

  • Big Canuck

    You are right. Being overweight is no reason for someone to call you names.

    Having terrible grammar and being a racist bigot on the hand….

    What does the fact that the manager sounded like a “foriner” have to do with anything?

    Unfortunately, all you have accomplished through your post is prove yet again that 4D Nation is nothing but a group of angry illiterate thugs who have never accomplished anything in their lives.

  • John Du

    Its disgusting this Michael Lublin character is not in jail for all the people he has hurt.

 

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