Although this past year has been filled with darkness and despair, there are two couples working together in Bronx’s Little Italy, both of whom have been married for almost half a century.
Lori, 71 and Marco Coletta, 75, own and operate Tra Di Noi, at 622 East 187th Street, best known for their lasagna Bolognese, pasta con fave, calamari fritti, homemade gnocchi and stracotto (slow-braised beef.)
They met when she had a part-time job as a server while he was a chef at a restaurant in Yonkers. He asked her out several times, but Lori continued to decline since she thought the cultural differences were too great between them. She was born and raised in NYC, while Marco hailed from a small mountain village in Italy.
However, Marco, who has been a chef for 60 years, kept showering her with the bounty of food – from a package of steaks to an array of fresh flounder that he caught himself, so she finally agreed. They have been together ever since for 41 years and have a daughter together.
“It’s tough when you work with family,” Lori told the Bronx Times. “One of the reasons we make it work is I stay in the dining room and he stays in the kitchen. We more or less let each other do our own thing.”
Left with an empty nest after their daughter graduated from college, the duo decided in 2002 to open the eatery. While they had never run a business before, they took the plunge and felt confident.
“I thought that he was such a good chef I knew we were going to be okay,” she explained. “We’ve managed to make a living. I think the restaurant just made us closer.”
The past year has been their toughest test as owners. They were shuttered until May and have struggled to get by taking it month by month. Emotionally, it’s been quite hard as very few people have been coming to Tra Di Noi.
Things improved when indoor dining was allowed, but then it was stopped again. Lori stressed she will not let COVID-19 destroy them.
“I’m not giving up without a fight,” she stated.
According to Lori, she and her husband have lasted this long as a couple because they can rely on each other and good communication.
“I think any good marriage you grow together and you learn to iron out things together,” she said. “When I get down he lifts me up. We just try to support each other.
I think when you make a commitment to each other you make a commitment to the good times and the bad.”
Another love story from the Bronx Little Italy is Rosa and Giancarlo Paciullo of Tino’s Deli, located at 2410 Arthur Avenue. They met as teens in Italy and have been married for 48 years with three kids and five grandkids.
“My husband is very caring,” Rosa commented. “He worries about me too much. It doesn’t pass one day where he doesn’t say I love you or say you are beautiful.”
Giancarlo, 69, was previously a pastry chef at Egidio Pastry Shop and together with Rosa, 62, also owned and sold Mount Carmel Wine & Spirits in the Bronx Little Italy. But 27 years ago the couple opened Tino’s Deli, best known for their eggplant and chicken parmigiana, homemade mozzarella, pizza and Italian sandwiches.
They say that they have never worked apart from each other, always divide their responsibilities and keep things 50/50.
“I enjoy working with my husband,” she said. “He’s very calm. I’m the crazy one.”
According to Rosa, owning the deli has made their relationship stronger. They fight like all couples, but support each other.
“We’re still going strong because we believe in marriage and we believe in family,” she stressed. “Every problem we have we try to work together. He needs me and I need him.”
However, the pandemic has been challenging and it forced them to close for the first time.
She noted the past year has been especially hard for her husband who loves to greet the customers with a handshake or hug.
“[COVID-19] has emotionally destroyed us,” she said. “We love our business.”