“It was a complete accident,” Tom said, smiling shyly. “I wasn’t even looking for anyone at the time.” Tom looked down, grinning a little apologetically. “I actually had another boyfriend when I met Roman!”
Roman threw his head back and laughed. “Poor guy!” he joked. “He was no match for the likes of me.” Roman is at least fifteen years Tom’s senior. Tom laughed too. “It’s true though! As soon as I saw Roman, that was it for me and any other man,” he explained. Roman blushed ever so slightly. “As a matter of fact, it was the same for me – not that there was much competition,” he said with a good-natured smile.
Roman and Tom’s paths intersected in Pisa, Italy, where Roman was scoping out sites for his housing development firm, and Tom was on a rapidly-deteriorating romantic vacation with his then-boyfriend. They all happened to be seated at the same restaurant, where Roman had excitedly ordered a delicious-looking dish he saw at another table. “I thought it was fried noodles,” he said of the cieche fritte, which, upon ingesting, he discovered was actually fried baby eels. He choked after his first unexpected bite.
Tom laughed at the memory. “His eyes were watering, and he was quietly sputtering in English, This is not a noodle – I think – what did I eat?!” The waiter came over to help him, but Roman tried to assure him nothing was wrong, as tears rolled down his face. Tom’s then-boyfriend scoffed (“He had read a couple guide books and was pretty superior about it,” Tom explained with a roll of his eyes), but Tom sympathized with Roman. “He was so earnest, trying to play it off and roll with the punches,” Tom explained. “I could tell he was kind.” Tom approached Roman with a glass of red wine to wash down the eels, and the rest was history…as was Tom’s other boyfriend.
Tom and Roman celebrated their wedding in Fort Meyers, Florida this month.