Real Weddings: Jacqueline and Roberto
Inside two restaurateurs’ Sicilian celebration
Entrepreneurs and restaurateurs Jacqueline Nicosia, 40, and Roberto Marotta, 47, met in 2008 in the small Sicilian town where both of their families are from. After falling in love, they moved to Toronto, where they went into business together and opened two restaurants: Ardo and Dova. (They also have a cocktail spot called Bar Ardo set to open later this year.) After spending 15 years focusing on their two children and their businesses, they finally had the chance to plan their dream destination wedding. Here’s how it all went down.
Jacqueline: My dad’s side of the family is from Sicily. They grew up in the town of Milazzo, which happens to be where Roberto is from. I went there to visit my family in the spring of 2008 and decided to stay for the summer. My dad’s apartment was close to Roberto’s restaurant, so I would walk by it all the time. Roberto knew my cousins. It’s a small town, so everybody knows one another.
Roberto: As soon as I saw Jacqueline, she captured my attention. I was fascinated by the way she presented herself and how she walked. I’d never seen anyone like her before.
Jacqueline: We ended up meeting one evening at a popular bar in town, and to be honest, it was a bit of an odd encounter. Roberto was sitting on a balcony, and I was on the ground floor having a drink with my cousins. He kept looking down at me. Later that evening, we moved to another bar, and suddenly Roberto tapped me on my shoulder. The first thing that came out of his mouth was, “Are you American?”
He was dressed top to bottom in white, including the most ridiculous-looking white shoes I’ve ever seen. At the time, I didn’t think I’d be in Sicily for more than a month, so I didn’t really see the point of pursuing someone. On the other hand, he was very attractive and seemed quite charming. In the end, I agreed to go out with him. We went on a date by the sea and had an instant connection. After that, we were inseparable for the rest of the summer. Then, over the next two years, I lived in Sicily on and off. The more time we spent together, the more we realized that we could be life partners down the road.
Roberto: After two years of us living together in Milazzo, Jacqueline went back to Canada. I left my restaurant in Sicily—which I owned and was the chef at—to go with her. When I arrived, I knew I wanted to settle here. I felt comfortable in the city and so happy to be with Jacqueline. I knew she was the right person for me. But I also knew that, professionally, it would be a challenge—I had to start from zero again. Regardless, we agreed then that we would get married, but we didn’t do a full proposal quite yet. In 2012, we bought a house together, and our son, Leonardo, was born in 2013.
Roberto: Then we opened our first restaurant together, Ardo. We always knew that we would prioritize our kids and going into business ahead of a wedding.
Jacqueline: In 2017, our daughter, Vivienne, was born.
Roberto: When I felt like the time was right for a real proposal, I wanted to make sure that it was unique. So we took a trip to New York in the fall of 2019. I’d reached out to the management at the restaurant Eleven Madison Park and asked them to help. We went for dinner there, and the staff made the experience very special. When we arrived, they welcomed us into a private space upstairs, this beautiful room that was filled with flowers. I proposed, and after she said yes, they brought in champagne.
Jacqueline: They gifted us two Tiffany champagne flutes. I will say, this was the one and only time Roberto has been able to surprise me.
Roberto: We decided to tie the knot in the town where we met.
Jacqueline: Milazzo is where we fell in love. We bring our children back every summer to see family. I don’t think we could have had the wedding anywhere else.
Roberto: A good friend of mine has a nice hotel there that’s right on the sea. It’s called Ngonia Bay. It was owned by an aristocratic family and has a beautiful terrace in the back. We decided to use that as the venue.
Jacqueline: As you can imagine, for us as restaurateurs, the service, food and drinks were especially important. That’s a big part of why we chose to have the wedding at Ngonia Bay. The space is beautiful and elegant without feeling stuffy, and they have incredible food, cocktails and wine. They put so much care into every guest’s experience. Our planning process was a bit unconventional. We didn’t have a wedding planner, and we booked our location and the date only a year in advance. We sorted out the rest of the details about a month ahead of time. We pulled everything together really quickly—we wanted it to feel organic.
Jacqueline: It was so special having Leonardo and Vivienne involved in the planning and the wedding day, especially because they are at an age where they could appreciate what the whole thing meant to us. Leading up to it, they would talk a lot about what they wanted to have or wear at the wedding or the shoes they’d picked out. It was cute to watch them get excited about the details. It was important to me that they knew this day was just as much for them as it was for us.
Roberto: When Leonardo got his suit fitted, you could tell how great he felt in it and how excited he was to get dressed up. Vivienne got to go with Jacqueline for her dress fitting. She loved having a little secret between them.
Jacqueline: On the big day, Leonardo and Roberto got ready together, and Vivienne and I did the same. I had a gift for Vivienne, two matching bracelets. We both wore them that day, which meant a lot to her. She still wears hers on special occasions.
Roberto: Leonardo and I had matching outfits: off-white jackets and black bow ties. When we’d arrived in Sicily, we actually realized we’d forgotten his black shoes. Well, imagine trying to find a pair of those in Sicily in the summer. We did end up finding some, but it added to the excitement.
Roberto: Even though me and Jacqueline did most of the organizing, my father kept asking if there was anything he could do for us. I told him that, if he could find a vintage car, we would drive it to the church where Jacqueline’s nonna and nonno first met—it’s actually right across from the bar where Jacqueline and I met. My dad was able to find a red Fiat 124 Spider from the ’70s. It was a beautiful vintage convertible, very Italian. So, right before the wedding, the two of us drove up to the church to take some pictures. We wanted to make sure that we took a moment alone at that spot.
Jacqueline: After that, Roberto and the kids and I all got together. It was quite special seeing everyone all dressed up. I almost burst into tears when I saw my son. He looked so handsome! The ceremony was on the rooftop terrace, which is facing the sea. We could see the peninsula of Milazzo as the sun was setting. There are cactuses all along the side of the mountain and beautiful homes perched all along the top. It’s a stunning view.
Jacqueline: The four of us walked down the aisle as a family. It was a bit non-traditional, but it felt right to us. The ceremony and vows were emotional because it felt very full circle. The fact that we had met there, that our kids were with us—it was less about starting a life together and more about appreciating everything we’d already been through and the fact that we’re still moving forward together.
Roberto: Plus the scenery was spectacular.
Jacqueline: Two of my cousins officiated the wedding ceremony, so it was pretty casual. One spoke in Italian and one in English. Vivienne was most excited for what she calls the “wedding kiss,” and she asked that we throw flowers afterward, which we did.
Jacqueline: For the reception, we kept it really simple. We did two long harvest-style tables in the back garden of the hotel. The location is quite beautiful as it is, so we didn’t add in a ton of decor. We were surrounded by olive trees, which are my favourite—I even have some in our restaurants. We incorporated olive branches into our table settings along with some white flowers and candles.
Roberto: We kept the guest list pretty short. There were around 60 people, so it was intimate. Usually weddings in Sicily are quite formal, but this was more of a celebration, so we kept it relaxed. It was nice to have both of our families together for the first time.
Jacqueline: One of the things that Leonardo really wanted to see was a champagne tower. He had seen it in a movie and thought it was cool, so he was pretty insistent on having it.
Roberto: So, right after our ceremony, we had a champagne tower with hors d’oeuvres that were playful takes on Sicilian street food, like cuttlefish, arancini and panelle. Then we had a sit-down dinner. We wanted to highlight all of the beautiful local specialties that Sicily has to offer. We started with a raw course of tuna, red shrimps and amberjack, then stuffed squid, a classic Aeolian dish. The main dish was swordfish and a classic Sicilian caponata, and we finished it off with fresh lemon gelato. We also had a dessert table with Sicily’s best traditional desserts, including cannoli tarts and cassata. That was Jacqueline’s favourite part.
Roberto: We also had a little surprise: the pasta bar. We didn’t have any pasta dishes on the menu. Imagine an Italian wedding where there’s no pasta! Our guests were mystified, but around 11 p.m. we set up an outdoor kitchen where there was pasta for everybody to enjoy. By this point, a lot of wine had been consumed, so people were happy to have some carbs.
Jacqueline: After the wedding, we were able to spend some time in Sicily with our friends and family. They had seen our story start in 2008, when none of us knew what would become of a summer romance between a Sicilian boy and a Canadian girl. It may sound strange to a lot of people, but getting married after 15 years together felt like the perfect time.
Roberto: It was an important step in our journey together, but I know we’ll just continue treating each other with respect and unconditional support.
Jacqueline: We always felt like we were married, even before the ceremony. This was just a wonderful chance to celebrate our relationship.
Wedding date: July 3, 2023
Photography: Gianmarco Amico
Videography: Ken Galloway
Wedding location: Milazzo, Sicily, Italy
Officiant: Antonio Nicosia and Chiara Nicosia
Catering: Ngonia Bay Hotel
Wedding cake: Ngonia Bay Hotel
Music: Daniele Paone
Bride’s hair: Peppe Aspa
Bride’s makeup: Annalisa Zizzo
Bride’s dresses: Pronovias (first dress), Ba&sh (second dress)
Bride’s shoes: Christian Louboutin
Bride’s sunglasses: Saint Laurent
Bride’s jewellery: Swarovski
Groom’s outfit: Brunello Cucinelli
Groom’s sunglasses: Celine