When visiting Mimi’s Ravioli in an unassuming location in Hollywood, Florida, one is immediately transported to a place in time that is rare and precious… when stores like Mimi’s were on every corner in the neighborhood and the family members from Nonna to bambino were there every day from sunup to sundown making sure every customer was happy. That is what the Billisi’s bring every day to their family store. When the smell of fresh baked bread and the aroma of delicate, garlic-laden sauce wafts in the air, you are greeted by Linda (aka Mama) who has been serving regulars and newcomers the freshest pasta and Italian delicacies for over 40 years. From their signature homemade pastas (ravioli, manicotti, stuffed shells and more) to prepared foods like lasagna Bolognese to eggplant rollatini to crusty pizzas made to order in their own brick oven, every item in the store is either homemade or imported from Italy. The freezers and fridges are stocked with take home favorites of all their specialties from pastas to sauces to soups, antipasto and cheeses and the aisles are painstakingly lined with all things Italian from specialty olive oils and salamis to handmade pottery and espresso machines. Even Brioschi, an old-time remedy for that overindulgence.
That’s just the front of the house. In the back is where all the magic happens. Frank, Sr. runs the kitchen to impeccable standards. Quality and a consistently perfect product are Frank’s chief concerns and it has been that way since Frank and Linda opened their doors in 1970, when the world was a different place. And that’s why customers like Don Faby, now a VP of Enterprise Sales for UPS in Atlanta, makes a pilgrimage to Mimi’s whenever he is back in town, just to taste the same exact cannolis he had shopping at Mimi’s with his grandmother as a little boy. In fact, he brings any business associate or friend from out of town. “They are that good,” says Faby. “I even have them shipped to Atlanta,” he adds.
But the future of Mimi’s is with Frankie Jr. and Anthony, the Billisi boys, who co-captain the ship that their parents built. Aside from being best friends, they are simpatico business partners, both bringing a unique perspective and innate sensibility to the table. Both boys have been involved in the business since they were knee high. In fact, the previous Mimi’s location was right next door to the daycare. “We would be out on the playground and tell the customers to get our mom. We’d take naps on the flour bags,” says Frankie. They learned everything about success from their parents. “Making the local patrons feel like family was instilled in the culture from the very beginning, but also making a constant investment in the business to maintain the quality that we have come to be known for. There is no substitution for that,” he adds. While Frankie helms the many aspects of the business besides the retail operation; they manufacture, distribute and import for their private label goods, Anthony brings the artistry and the sheer love and passion for food and family tradition. After high school, both graduates of Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School, Frankie went to Barry University and obtained a degree in computer science, while Anthony went to Nova Southeastern to play baseball and was asked to play for the Italian National team. He spent four years in Torino, just outside of Rome, and in his spare time, learned the art of Italian pastry making apprenticing at a local, family-run ristorante. He returned with a new found enthusiasm, adding touches of Italian authenticity… an espresso bar, brick-oven pizza, an olive bar and hand-scooped gelato.
But what stands true today, as it always has since Mimi’s first opened, is the penchant for quality at an exceptional value. Frankie, a father of three, who works long days, sometimes seven days a week and puts in evenings at his kids’ ballgames, appreciates that first hand. He will challenge you to find another place where you can feed a family of four, on-the-go, a home-cooked meal with dessert for $22.