Establishments: FS Food Group restaurants: Mama Ricotta's; Cantina 1511 (two locations); Big Daddy's Burger Bar (two locations); Plate Perfect Catering; Paco's Tacos
Headquarters: Charlotte, North Carolina
What He's Done: Frank Scibelli has parlayed his Springfield, Massachusetts, Italian upbringing into a mini-empire in the temperamental Charlotte, North Carolina, market by listening to his gut and his customers. Early to the party in 1992 with Mama Ricotta's authentic regional Italian food (homemade pasta, mozzarella, breads and sausages), Scibelli, 45, next turned to regional Mexican food with Cantina 1511.
Why We Like Him: Think salsa. Following his customary staff road-cum-research-trip through Texas, Paco's Tacos & Tequila opened in September 2010 serving—among other things—warm Texas-style salsa. Within a week, conservative Charlotteans told him ¡que no! and he reverted to the cool kind. "We go for authenticity but you'd be an arrogant ass not to listen to your customers," says Scibelli.
What's Next: An as-yet-unnamed 'cue joint will open in early 2011. He's also noodling around with partnerships that will take him deeper into wood-fired pizza and fried chicken. "As we got bigger I became more convinced that simple, honest, moderately priced concepts where people could have fun were the way to go."