Wooed By Food

Couples find taste of love is irresistible

Peter Adams, Donna Crivello

February 09, 2000|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Food -- it nurtures, it soothes, it woos.

This sustenance of life has played a starring role in romantic literature, films and real life ever since Eve gave Adam the apple. Turn the pages of such books as "Like Water for Chocolate" (Anchor, 1989) by Laura Esquivel to find a lovers' tale laced with food.

And who can forget the sumptuous feasts of love in movies like "Big Night" and "Eat Drink Man Woman"? Or the tender scene where Lady and the Tramp share a strand of spaghetti and a kiss in the Disney classic.

Does life imitate art? Is the way to one's heart really through the stomach? With Valentine's Day approaching, we talked to four local restaurant couples to find out what the impact of food has been on their relationships. We found that not only are these duos passionate about food, but food has fueled their passion.

Peter Adams, Donna Crivello,

First, Peter Adams fell in love with her food. Then, he fell in love with Donna.

Donna is Donna Crivello, chef and co-owner of 10 restaurants and cafes bearing her name. Adams is a college professor who first saw his future wife while she was bustling around the open kitchen of her Mount Vernon restaurant, where he often dined.

"She was bossy. She was charming. She was schmoozing with everyone," says Adams, 58, a personable English instructor who has taught at the Community College of Baltimore County Essex campus for 21 years. "I thought I'd like to meet her."

But the two couldn't seem to connect. They were introduced somewhere. They're not sure where. Later, she couldn't remember his name. There were near misses, such as the time at a grocery store in the Rotunda when Adams spotted Crivello. But the restaurateur was too distracted lugging around 20 eggplants to notice the man who was to become her husband.

Crivello and Adams, who each have been married before, admit they were longtime singles who were not in any hurry to remarry. "I enjoyed being single, [and] although being married was better, I wasn't going to do it unless I met the right person," Adams says. "Then I met Donna."

For Crivello, Adams was definitely the right person. "Peter wasn't demanding. He was accepting of my schedule," says Crivello, whose work often continues late into the evening. "Peter is a happy person. He has a good heart."

The couple, whose hectic lifestyles now fit together like a well-designed jigsaw puzzle, laughs about the earlier days. "I was busy," acknowledges Crivello, 47, who fulfilled a lifelong dream by opening her first restaurant almost eight years ago with her business partner, Alan Hirsch.

Cupid, however, was busy too. All he needed was an ailing mother, a Canton condo, an uncooperative lamb dish and a burning duck breast to get the romance going.

The couple's life paths began to intersect when Adams' mother had a stroke. He brought her to his Bolton Hill home to care for her. As she recovered, they ate out a lot. "Donna's was the restaurant of choice," Adams says.

Soon, Crivello's staff was teasing her. "That man and his mother are here again," they'd tell her.

Adams and his mother also were looking for condos in Canton. So was Crivello.

After Adams moved into his new home -- his mother bought another condo in the same building -- he invited Crivello to dinner. The meal got off to a rocky start when Adams realized the lamb vindaloo was sticking to the pan.

Chef Crivello came to the rescue. "I said, `I'll deglaze it.' He thought it was a miracle," she says, still chuckling about the first date.

But the couple's relationship was just beginning to heat up. When Crivello cooked dinner for Adams shortly afterward at her Oakenshawe house, the duck breast she was grilling caught on fire. "That was the moment I knew it was love," Adams recalls.

Within three months, the couple was engaged. Three months later, they married on Nov. 29, 1997.

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