Tell me about yourself in four sentences or less.
My name is Matt Gregoris and I’m the co-owner of Brock Sandwich. We’ll be open a year as of July 30.
What’s your restaurant industry background?
I’ve been working in restaurants since I was about 15-years-old. I have worked front of house at Susur, and then later at Zucca Trattoria.
How would you characterize your business?
I’d want to say that it’s like a gourmet sandwich shop but we make things you would want to eat—that is, things that are enjoyable and aren’t too expensive.
So what are some of the things you do to make your sandwiches stand apart?
We have a very talented core group of guys: Dominic was a sous-chef at Susur; Mike was a sous-chef at Centro and he worked with us at Susur as well; Tyler was a sous-chef at Zucca.
We’re trying to use the techniques we’ve learned to not necessarily reinvent the wheel but to make the food we create better. So for the chicken we make, we debone it ourselves, brine it for a day and then buttermilk it. We also use leg meat instead of breast, so there’s a little more flavour. It’s things like that make our sandwiches stand apart.
So everything is still rooted in the things you’ve learned from working in fine dining restaurants.
That’s right. You learn all of these things from working in good restaurants—you don’t get paid much—but it’s like going to school, and then you can take all of those experiences and put them all together; with the group that we have it works really well.
What were the challenges that you faced when you first opened?
One of our first challenges was that we didn’t need a dishwasher.
Like dishwasher staff?
No, like a dishwasher machine. We became the machine. When you open a business you have to be willing to do stuff that no one else is willing to do because it’s your business.
Other than that, I think when we first opened it was difficult to get the flow of things—every restaurant will have it’s own flow, and now it’s evolving and I’m trying to make it as smooth as possible. We keep growing the business; we want to make dinner; we just catered a wedding, we’ve been doing things other than just sandwiches.
How did you first get into cooking?
When I was growing up and my mom was cooking in the kitchen I would work with her. I’m Italian, and for Italians the kitchen is like the centre of your house; everyone hangs out there.
So were you guys making everything from scratch?
Yeah, my grandparents would come over with tomatoes during tomato season. It’s a big party—everyone hangs out and we’d make a bunch of sauce.
So growing up Italian, food was more than just food then.
It was that camaraderie of being there. It was a family thing.
What do you think about the Toronto dining scene?
I think the Toronto dining scene is getting better and better, and it’s spreading all over the city.
So what are your favourite spots to eat in Toronto?
The Grove, it’s a really nice spot and I like to go there. I also like this place in Bloordale, the Emerson—I hang out there quite a bit. I play foosball there, too. Conor, one of the owners, has a table.
What is your favourite old school, Toronto institution?
Zucca. It’s been there for about 20 years. I think it’s the best Italian restaurant in Toronto. I grew up eating Italian food but that place will do the real deal stuff. For example, they won’t serve a caprese salad unless it’s August and the tomatoes are local and in season. After that they’re off the menu. And the pastas are also very unique. You won’t find a penne a la vodka or a caesar salad there.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I just got engaged so I like to hang out with my fiancee, chill out a bit and go for some food. I also like to go to the cottage as much as possible when I have the time.
Photo by Dylan Leeder
Brian Tavares is a contributor to Toronto Standard.