HAVING your first baby, opening a business, and building a new house all rank high on the list of stressful events in life, so when you hear that Kerry-based Antoinette and Daniele Giovannelli did all three in the same week, you'd have to admire them for retaining their sanity in the process.
It was in March that baby Lucia made her appearance, and she came home from hospital two days before her parents opened their cafe, Giovannelli's, in Killorglin. Later that same week, building began on the new family home.
"It's been pretty hectic," admits Antoinette, a painter/ mosaic artist. "I'd say we'll probably look back in 12 months' time and see what a rollercoaster it was."
When it comes to romance, Antoinette's late father, Timothy O'Shea, had always predicted that his daughter would marry a foreigner. He possibly thought she'd meet someone in Amsterdam, TO where she moved at 18, or indeed London, Australia and India, where she also lived and worked for long periods.
As she travelled around Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Burma, it's also possible that the man of her dreams might have turned up somewhere along the way, but it was actually on Main Street, Killorglin, that Antoinette met her dashing Italian.
The reason that she was back in Kerry was because her 59-year-old father had been killed on the road in an accident that also claimed the life of the other driver. Antoinette was travelling in India at the time, and it took her family a few days to locate her as she was "living in a treehouse in the backwaters of Kerala".
"We all fell apart when Dad died, and I decided that I'd stay home with Mum for a few months," says Antoinette, the youngest of five siblings.
"I hadn't been out for months under the circumstances, but I went out this particular night to the Puck Fair with friends. My sister Jaz had mentioned that there was an Italian guy working in Nick's Restaurant, and we were sitting chatting by the river when Daniele came along, and he joined us as he knew some of the people in the group."
"l was attracted to Antoinette because her smile was so nice and her eyes, of course," says Daniele. "She is very independent, and I loved that about her, so it wasn't the case of the classic stereotype of the bold Italian man and his prey."
After procuring her number afterwards from her sister, Daniele called Antoinette and asked her out for a pint. "I would usually run a mile, but I found myself saying that I would like to go out that night, which was kind of strange for me, but I liked him because he was cheeky, but in a funny way. I was in a very bad place when we first met, but then everything turned around."
Six weeks later, the pair went to Lake Garda, and while they were there, they decided they were getting married. "It was a very romantic place," says Antoinette, "and I don't know who said what as there wasn't any proposal as such, but the next morning we were ringing people telling them we were getting married."
Daniele had come to Killorglin from his home town of La Brianza, outside Milan, northern Italy. He started working in a restaurant when he was 30, after eight years spent in the army. To gain as much experience as possible, he worked in an Italian resort in Central America, and came to Dublin in 1998 for six months, where he worked at Isaac's Hotel and Pasta Fresca. Once back in Italy, Daniele worked as a restaurant manager, and trained as a sommelier. Having fallen in love with Ireland during his earlier visit, he returned in 2002 to take up a sommelier position at Nick's Restaurant, in Killorglin. He would later open a small but verysuccessful business selling products such as
Italian olives and cheeses, which he jokingly says he started doing because he missed good food from home. Meanwhile, the talented Antoinette was doing some artistic work with Pauline Bewick and working with people with special needs. She and Daniele were married in July 2005, and after a two-month honeymoon in Costa Rica, they came back fired with enthusiasm for fulfilling their dream of opening their own cafe.
Having found the ideal premises in Killorglin, life became busy as Antoinette became pregnant with Lucia, and went to Italy to do a mosaics course. As the couple were renting a cottage, there was also the matter of the new house construction to deal with, with a studio on the side for Antoinette to pursue her mosaic and painting.
The dream came true when Giovannelli's opened four months ago, and while it has an Italian name, it doesn't have a typical Italian pizza and carbonara menu. Every day, Daniele and his talented chef Max present a different menu of five starters and five main courses, depending on the fresh ingredients that are in season. With two sittings at weekends, the cafe has captured the imagination of locals already, and has already become very popular. Although Antoinette has a full-time job taking care of baby Lucia, Daniele says that she has been a huge emotional support to him, looking after the accounts and helping wherever possible.
"We both lead very fast, independent lives, but we're very much together," says Antoinette. "I was never the type of person that wanted to cook and clean for someone else, but our relationship is very even, and I love it. I'm not there thinking that I'd better check that Daniele's shirts are ironed. He does most of the cooking, and we bring each other breakfast in bed, and he's brilliant with Lucia -- he speaks to her in Italian the whole time. It was funny that Dad always thought I'd marry a foreigner," she adds, "so I suppose a nice way of looking at it is that he left and then Daniele came."
Giovannelli's, Lower Bridge Street, Killorglin, Co Kerry. Tel (066) 979 6640