SPARTA, NJ- Instead of hand wringing and self-pity Racheal and Steve Scro owners of the Mohawk House restaurant are boldly building for the future. Plans to create a sister restaurant were well in the works when the pandemic struck and the Modern Farmer is taking shape in the Sparta North Village.
The new building is just one part of the vision for the future. The Scros have also built a team of professionals to help achieve that vision.
“We want to build something of substance that will last. We’ve brought in key people to create an elite team to bring the Mohawk Restaurant Group into the future,” Steve Scro said. “We have a very special group with major experience.”
“The collaboration and breadth of experience they have brings an enhanced level of creativity and production to the planning for the future,” Rachael Scro said. “Especially at this time.” She said it is “so uplifting” even to the people in the office.
Introducing the Team
Executive Chef Peter Case comes to the Mohawk House with his own team that includes Sous Chef Mary Monteforte. Justin and Rose round out the crew that will work to maintain and elevate the cuisine for their guests. General Manager Mark Musilli will see to it no detail is left unattended.
Case most recently influenced the dining experiences of patrons at Crystal Springs, for 11 years total, over two different time periods. His journey to Sparta began after he left the Coast Guard and attended the Culinary Institute of America or CIA. With those credentials Case has worked at prestigious kitchens in Manhattan including the Rainbow Room, the St. Regis Hotel and the Glenmere Mansion, a Relais & Chateaux property in Chester, New York.
It was at the St. Regis where Case met his wife Inyelisse. Having working in the restaurant industry, Inyelisse said she “understands the sacrifice” it takes working long hours and holidays.
“We try to find time to make time for each other,” she said.
The couple recently adopted a dog Dio when the Mohawk House hosted a Oscar rescue event. The shepherd, blue healer mix caught Peter Case’s eye and his heart immediately. Coincidently, when Inyelisse did a search on Pet Finder, Sparta the first dog that appeared on her screen was Dio. They knew it was meant to be.
Dio joins cats Poly and Lilly in the Case home.
In coming to the Mohawk House Case is coming home in a way. He grew up in Sussex County, graduating from Kittatinny Reginal High School and even working as a dishwasher at Fares Country Inn in Andover.
While at Crystal Springs Case made some important connections. He met Scro, as well as Monteforte in the kitchen and Musilli who was Vice President of Food and Beverage.
Monteforte was first friends with Inyelisse when she decided to “give cooking a try.” Learning from Case the two “balance each other,” Monteforte said. “He’s a blessing.”
While working full time with Case, Monteforte attended county college in Sullivan County, New York to continue her education.
The rest of the team includes Justin, a mountain of a man they call “Tiny” and Rose. Both are “working their way up” providing reliable support in the kitchen. At the age of 26, Justin has been cooking for 10 years. He began training at BOCES in New York, starting at age 14. From there he attended Paul Smith College in New York, continuing to study culinary arts.
He also learned by cooking with his grandmother and cousin, he said.
“It’s the way to people’s heart,” Justin said, adding he “loves to make people smile.”
“He has a great personality and really meshes well with the team,” Monteforte said.
“My wife and I are truly blessed,” to have been able to assemble this team of “like minded folks,” Scro said. He said Muselli and Case make such an important contribution in a business that “can be brutal and can be uplifting.”
“Mark is a visionary, a facilitator, an enhancer and progressive thinker,” Scro said. “Most importantly he has a big heart and likes to see people thrive and succeed.”
Coming to the Mohawk House and Modern Farmer is also coming home for Musilli. He and Scro first crossed paths in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Scro had opened up his property at 5 Lake Shore Trail to the line repair crews while Musilli was working at the Lake Mohawk Country Club.
Since that time they have “become like brothers.”
“I knew eventually we would get together to work,” Musilli said. “We have the same vision and mindset.”
He said another important attribute of Rachael and Steve Scro is their commitment to the “internal family;” the staff and the guests.
The general manager began his career in the hospitality industry when he ran the Boardwalk Club at the LMCC for a summer, after getting his degree from East Stroudsburg University. From there he went down to Morristown to the Headquarters Plaza Hotel.
Beginning at the bottom, Musilli started as an “Executive Stewart -running the dishwashers.” He worked his way through the property, gaining experience in many aspects of the hotel industry.
He added fine dining experience at the Black Orchid before going to the Sheraton Tara. At the Scottish castle inspired hotel, Musilli was Assistant Director of Catering, Director of Catering and Director of Food and Beverage. From there Musilli went to a Basking Ridge Country Club and Old Mill Inn.
A brief stint in retail was enough to send him back to hospitality at the New Jersey State Fair and full circle back to the LMCC as Assistant General Manager, where he had the first encounter with Scro.
Next stop was Crystal Springs where the experience “enabled me to continue my growth as Director of Food and Beverage” with the much feted La Tour restaurant, the famed wine cellar and the chance to meet Peter Case.
“It truly opened my heart again,” Musilli said.
Having worked with Case at Crystal Springs Musilli said the chef is “creative in à la cart and creative in catering.”
The Mohawk House had an extensive outdoor dining facility before the pandemic, with a patio, outdoor pizza oven, fire pit and bar. Now the bocce courts have been temporarily re-purposed to allow for additional seating.
Musilli said they have been seating and serving more than 100 and even more than 200 plates a day. They are looking forward to getting diners back inside where additional modifications have been made to accommodate a wider variety of events.
As to why they do what they do, Scro, Case and Musilli repeated the same refrain, a “thorough love of people, love of food and putting people together for a common good.”
Throughout the coronavirus health crisis, Scro has donated meals to facilities and organizations throughout the county. He said he does it “to keep my mind on things you want and off things you don’t want.”
“It’s a very exciting time for us,” Steve Scro said. “COVID has been a distraction but we have a true purpose of being good stewards of the community. That keeps us going.”