Meet Frank Scibelli & Ashli Cohen


by Charlotte Today Staff

Posted on May 5, 2010 at 1:00 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 4 at 1:51 PM


Founder & Operator
Frank Scibelli can credit his restaurants’ success with a love of authentic cuisine and family traditions. The Springfield, MA native grew up in a big Italian family where there was always something delicious cooking in his mother’s kitchen and it was tradition to have large family dinners.
After a career in consulting, Scibelli found himself in Charlotte, NC with memories of his mother’s kitchen inspiring him to form a career in the food business and open his first restaurant, Mama Ricotta’s. Since opening in 1992, the restaurant has quadrupled in size and has become one of the most well-known Italian restaurants in the region. The success of Mama Ricotta’s led Scibelli to eventually expand his restaurant empire to include Plate Perfect Catering, Cantina 1511 and Big Daddy’s Burger Bar and Paco’s Tacos & Tequila (Opening Summer 2010), all Charlotte favorites.
For the creation of all of his menus, Scibelli partners with exceptional purveyors and has earned a reputation for supporting local providers which includes purchasing many ingredients from the local Charlotte farmer’s markets. Scibelli’s talent for finding premium vendors to create unforgettable dishes from scratch carries over throughout his entire restaurant family.
Scibelli’s restaurants have maintained a loyal following for many years due in large part to the authenticity of the cuisine and the wanderlust of its owner. Traveling to culinary destinations like Italy and Mexico is one way Scibelli’s passion for great recipes and ingredients seeps into the dishes he serves. He regularly travels to both countries with his culinary team to work with renowned chefs, cooks in small kitchens and even home kitchen dwelling grandmothers to learn the latest dishes from the masters of the trade. The knowledge he brings back inspires recipes which ultimately find their way into the menus of his restaurants and catering company. In Mexico, smoked meats, fresh chilies,
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homemade salsas and mole serve as inspiration at Catina1511’s imaginative, authentic menu while fragrant sauces, Italian spices and deep Italian family traditions continue to inspire the menus at Mama Ricotta’s. Scibelli’s unfaltering respect for quality ingredients carries over to the menu at Big Daddy’s Burger Bar where the burgers are produced with premium all-natural, hormone free beef, Kobe beef, turkey, artisanal cheeses and toppings. Plate Perfect Catering offers an assortment of his restaurants’ signature dishes as well as other unique dishes, all reflective of Scibelli’s dedication to quality ingredients and culinary practices.
Scibelli earned his degree from Wake Forest University and later the prestigious Babcock School of Business. Using his passion for good food and his business expertise he has created one of Charlotte’s top dining corporations. Over the years Scibelli has seen Mama Ricotta’s achieve “Charlotte’s Best Italian Restaurant” five consecutive years by Charlotte Magazine and three consecutive years by Creative Loafing. The restaurant was also recognized as one of the “Top 1000 Italian Restaurants” in the country by Zagat. He has also served on the National Pork Board and National Dairy Board and has vast experience in working with national food associations.
Ashli Cohen
FS Food Group
Beverage Director
Ashli Cohen joined FS Food Group as beverage director in spring 2010, bringing a wealth of spirits industry knowledge and restaurant experience to the company. Filling a new position, Cohen is charged with leveraging the purchasing power and consolidating beverage efforts for all five units of FS Food Group.
According to Cohen, each restaurant was previously operating as an independent unit when it came to beverage orders. Under her wing, the new consolidated approach will be better for the company as a whole, as well as better for guests in terms of consistency.
A native of North Little Rock, Arkansas, Cohen has worked in the beverage and restaurant industries for the past 16 years. She began her career on the wholesale side, selling wine for a company in her home state. She was influenced by her father, who had a 40-year career in wholesale wine and spirits. She also gained hands-on experience working in restaurants throughout high college and college.
In 2002, she decided to leave the wholesale side, taking a position as beverage director for Harper’s Restaurants, Inc. based in Charlotte, North Carolina. There, she oversaw the beverage program for four concepts in seven locations.
After three years with Harper’s, Cohen left to open a restaurant, Ratcliffe on the Green in Charlotte, with a business partner. She ran the small, intimate fine dining restaurant for almost two years. She subsequently joined Ruth’s Chris Steak House as special events coordinator/beverage director, where she managed the wine program, special events and corporate client relationships for just over three years.
Now at FS Food Group, Cohen oversees “all things liquid,” from product mix to purchasing strategy to staff training. Menu design and bar setup/equipment also fall under her supervision.
“The real profit for a restaurant is in liquid,” she says. “It has low labor costs and is a key element in restaurants. It’s not always the first place where owners put an emphasis. Every restaurant has a chef, but not someone like me. But, with our fast-paced concepts, we need efficiency in every department, so it is paramount to have a focus on beverage.”
Cohen earned a B.A. in English and B.F.A. performing arts degree from William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri. She lives in southeast Charlotte with her husband, Doug, and 18-month-old son, Mitchell, as well as two stepsons Sam, 11, and Dylan, 13.