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Frank Scibelli, owner of Mama Ricotta's 

Frank Scibelli's dream of owning his own restaurant that served up his favorite home made dishes became a reality 15 years ago, and since then has thrived. Mama Ricotta's has grown from a small establishment to a 200-seat restaurant that has won nearly every major award there is to win in Charlotte.

Creative Loafing: You use authentic Italian recipes that have been in your family for years; what do you do to make them your own?

Frank Scibelli: There are several things that we do to make these dishes my own. First, we may play around with ingredients. For example, our lasagna is very similar to a version that my grandmother made, but we add in our homemade sausage. I thought that it was a great ingredient, and it really fit in the dish. We also took the base recipe for meatballs and came up with a version that uses turkey and prosciutto. Some items, like our tomato sauce, don't get changed much at all.

When it comes to ingredients, what kinds of things do you look for to add to your dishes?

I am always looking for new ingredients to modify our menu. I was on the National Pork Board's Celebrated Chef advisory board last year, and we added some Berkshire Pork. We also opened Big Daddy's Burger Bar, and learned a lot about ground beef in the process. We are now using Myers Beef, which is a hormone-free, grass-fed product. I think that it has a great rich flavor.

What goals have you set for yourself in relation to being in the food business?

I want to continue to get better at what I do. This becomes more of a challenge as we grow.

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