Philly Love Story: Jeniphur and Michael Pasquarello

Grade-school sweethearts Jeniphur and Michael Pasquarello, 35 and 33, on their mashed-up lives with two kids and four restaurants (including Bufad and Kensington Quarters).

Video edited by Alexa Carroll; royalty-free Music from Bensound

PM: Grade school, really?
Jeniphur: We went to the same elementary school in South Philly. And he was the neighbor of my best friend growing up.
Michael: I chased her around a little bit, and she just wasn’t having it. … But in high school, we started dating. We basically have known each other …
Jeniphur: The majority of our lives. We broke up in our early 20s, I think just to give each other some space. And then we got back together, moved in together, and opened a business together.

PM: So, business before marriage?
Michael: I knew this was the real deal, because if [owning a restaurant together] didn’t drive us apart, then this was it.

PM: What did you learn about each other in those first few years?
Michael: [to Jeniphur] You can be honest.
Jeniphur: I knew that he was a strong-willed and determined person — but when we opened a business, I saw that more so. It was difficult, but it was wonderful. My mom wishes we had a normal life, but we would hate that.
Michael: We say that we share a brain … but being together so long, there’s also a friendship there.

PM: Did kids change the dynamic?
Jeniphur: We thought it was going to be so easy, like our kids are going to be a part of this lifestyle. It doesn’t work out that way, so I definitely took a bit of a step back.
Michael: But it’s not a step back. We wake up together every morning and decide this is how we’re going to run our life — not our business, not our family, but our life.
Jeniphur: My grandparents owned a luncheonette in South Philly. … I think that’s why my mom wishes I had a normal life and not a restaurant life.
Michael: But your family is all strangely close, and I don’t think they realize that it’s because they had this, like, sitcom going on every day. I look at her family, and I think the restaurant business is at the root of that.
Jeniphur: It’s funny — we do spend so much time together, but now that I don’t go to work with him every day, I miss him. I’ll text him “I miss you” and he’ll text me “I miss you too,” so I don’t know if we just don’t know how to live without each other.
Michael: And she’s very strong. Sometimes when I’m down, I think about how she would handle it. When we had just opened Cafe Lift, a little fire broke out. I was like, “We’re gonna be closed for two weeks — this is it, shut it down.” And she said, “Keep it together, try hard.” In that moment, I thought, If she thinks this is okay, then I can do it.
Jeniphur: And you did. I can’t believe you remember that.

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Originally published in the February 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.