Mark Hayward's City Matters: Downtown, it's all in the restaurant family
In 2001, the couple borrowed $250,000 from family and opened what every great American city needs — a good downtown Italian restaurant.
Within two years, the Paolinis had paid off their debts and had stashed $200,000 in the bank.
Success at the family business bred the failure of a family, and the couple of 10 years divorced in 2008.
• John now owns his restaurant outright, and daughters Fabiana and Lorena are starting high school.
• Rosa and Matt co-own XO on Elm Restaurant, just a half-block down from Piccola.
Their story is one of love that splintered, broke away and then rejoined.
“I love him,” Rosa said as she shot a glance at her ex-husband across the table. “It doesn’t mean I’m in love with him. I won’t sleep with him.”
And Matt manages the front of Piccola, allowing John to devote his attention to executive chef duties.
“I love him,” Matt said about John. “We love each other. I’ve got his back, he’s got mine. He’s one of my best friends in the world.”
Last month, Rosa and Matt sat down with John and his girlfriend of five years, Amy Norcia, for an hour-long interview for two reasons. One is to celebrate the pending 13th anniversary of Piccola, which is going through a $30,000 interior remodeling this summer.
I’ve certainly heard the rumor over the years — that Rosa and Matt opened XO in 2009 to flaunt their relationship, and the X in the title was a nasty dig at John.
“A lot of people speculate. A lot of evil tongues,” Rosa said. “They want drama, they want destruction.” The X and O mean what they normally mean — hugs and kisses, Rosa said.
She said the breakup was not bitter. John got the restaurant, Rosa got the house. And the two have joint custody of their daughters.
“I went through a stage when I was a monster,” John said. “We started thinking differently. When you do that, you walk down different roads.”
Matt said he and John share father responsibilities for the daughters and the twins, Trystan and Ethan.
The Paolini divorce shocked many. Rosa said she is the first and only person in her family to divorce.
So what to make of this?
Mark Hayward’s City Matters appears Thursdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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