Her parents were regulars in the Outback Steakhouse he managed in Naples. Her sister and a couple of her cousins had worked in the restaurant, and it seemed a natural field-experience fit for Heidi Ross, who was studying resort and hospitality management and event coordination at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
Nick Napolitano says he had never been involved with a co-worker before. But after Heidi came to work for him in 2010, well, "sometimes you get a feeling."
He let her know he was interested. She kept her distance.
"He was my manager, so it was a little strange for me," Heidi says now.
Over her tenure at Outback, they got to know each other better.
"My parents came in a lot," Heidi says, and she and Nick "hung out as friends for a while. He would put it out there that he was interested but wasn't pushy. He spent a lot of time courting me and trying to win me over."
Nick, 32, says Heidi's innate shyness was one of the attributes that attracted him. "In this industry, you kind of have to break that shell," he says.
Heidi, 36, admired the way he treated the staff. "He's very kind. He's very thoughtful. He's a great manager," she says. "He has a great heart."
That Thanksgiving, he stopped by to see her and her family. Soon after that, Heidi resigned her position at Outback, "so we could get together. It wasn't appropriate before."
Nick grew up in Edison, N.J., and moved to Florida in 2008 to be near his parents, who had retired here.
"It was getting to that point where all my friends were getting married, and I felt like I needed a change of scenery," he says. "I was looking for Miss Right. It was almost two years before I met her, but I tell her she was the reason."
Their first date was at Bice Ristorante in Naples, a somewhat predictable choice because of Nick's Italian roots. In November 2011, he bought an engagement ring, although he didn't tell Heidi. For Christmas that year, he gave her tickets to Chicago, where he proposed in February 2012, in Millennium Park. They bought a house in Sarasota last December.
Nick accepted a proprietorship (part ownership) in a Bradenton Outback, and Heidi is on the staff at Mattison's in Sarasota, coordinating events for the restaurant's catering division.
"Working for Mattison's, I wanted to find a place where we could cater" the wedding, she says, which led them to the Dali Museum.
They were married on the museum's staircase, held their cocktail hour in the foyer and moved the reception inside because it rained a bit that afternoon.
New Jersey guy Nick will tell you he embodied "the male version of 27 Dresses," having attended numerous "banquet weddings up North. We wanted something a little bit different."
All of their guests were arriving from elsewhere and stayed in St. Petersburg. "We liked that everyone could walk everywhere," Heidi says.