Three couples share their secrets of running a successful business togetherBy Marisa Briggett • Photography by Betty Wiley
The term “work spouse” has entered the vernacular to describe a couple who spend so much time together at work they know each other as well as if they were married. What happens when work spouses are actual spouses, spending 24-7 together? Meet some couples who share two kitchens, one at home and one at work. They are the restaurateurs behind some of the Cape’s most successful restaurants (and marriages).
Jason and Ali O’Toole have been business owners for as long as they’ve been a couple. Seriously. On their first date in 2010, Jay told her about his plans to open a mobile wood fire pizza business. Wanna start a business with me? Jay asked Ali. She readily agreed.
Wasn’t that a lot of commitment for a first date? Not according to either of them, who knew at that first meeting that they were sitting across from the person they’d be spending their life with. “If Jay said, ‘Let’s go open Pizza Barbone on the moon, I’d do it,” says Ali.
Five years later, both their relationship and their business have grown. Married now, their business has expanded exponentially from that single mobile oven to a current fleet of three mobile ovens and a brick-and-mortar restaurant featuring thin-crust Neapolitan pizza topped with fresh ingredients and accompanied by unique salads. The mobile ovens are busy at catered events: birthday parties, weddings, rehearsal dinners and other celebrations.
The restaurant is packed with a particularly dedicated group of customers who return again and again. Their loyalty and enthusiasm is understandable. It’s that rare place where you can order a glass of prosecco with your pizza. A recent special featured arugula salad with sweet potatoes, fried chickpeas and a lemon vinaigrette. You wouldn’t think to combine those ingredients at home, but boy, do they work well together. It’s no wonder that Jay and Ali eat at the restaurant nearly every day. Ali says, “except for our days off, we eat there. And even then—on our days off—I ask Jay if we can eat here.”
At the Hyannis Main Street restaurant, you’ll find Jay in the kitchen, part of the apron squad. Ali runs the front of the house. After they finish up for the night, they head home in separate cars (because Ali comes to the restaurant from an earlier office job). As soon as their car doors close, they are almost immediately on the phone with each other to deconstruct the day as they make their way home to Cotuit.