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Best of Bosses 2008(5)

By:Kate Hardy

‘And you’re all still close?’

‘As I said, we’re stereotyped. Typical Italian family.’ He spread his hands. ‘Big and noisy and knowing way too much of each other’s business. Dad, Netti and Nando all live in the same street—the same place I grew up with my sisters and my cousins. Though none of us lives at home now; my generation’s spread a bit.’ He shrugged. ‘Sometimes it feels a bit crowded, and it drives me crazy when they try to organise my social life and find me the perfect girlfriend. But if things get rough it’s good to know there’s a bunch of people looking out for you, people you can rely on.’

Fran suppressed the feeling of wistfulness before it had a chance to take hold, and tried one of the tiny discs. ‘Oh, wow.’

Gio smiled. ‘Told you they were good.’

‘Do you recommend anything in particular?’ she asked, scanning the menu.

‘Netti’s a genius in the kitchen. You could pick anything and it’d taste superb. But you mentioned grilled scamorza, panna cotta and dough balls.’

‘They’re not on the menu,’ Fran pointed out.

‘For us, they will be.’ He said it without a trace of arrogance; it sounded more like he knew he was getting special treatment, and appreciated it. ‘Would you prefer red or white wine?’

‘White, please.’

‘Pinot grigio all right?’

‘Lovely, thanks.’

When Marco returned to take their order, Gio leaned back against his chair and gave him a wicked smile. ‘Ah, cugino mio. In fact, oh, best cousin in the world—best cousin in the universe…’

Marco groaned. ‘You’re going to ask for a Giovanni special, aren’t you?’

‘Yup.’ Gio spoke in rapid Italian. Fran couldn’t follow the conversation at all, but Gio’s accent was incredibly sexy. And he had the most gorgeous mouth. Even when he wasn’t talking, there was a permanent tilt to the corner of his lips, as if he were smiling. A real knee-buckler of a smile, too. Yet, at the same time, there was a sense of suppressed energy and restlessness about him. Gio Mazetti was a puzzle. And she found herself wanting to know more about him.

‘Basta—enough. I’ll ask. But as you’re her favourite nephew…’ Marco rolled his eyes.

‘I’m Netti’s only nephew,’ Gio corrected with a grin.

‘As I said. Her favourite. So there’s a pretty good chance she’ll say yes.’ Marco smiled. ‘One bottle of pinot grigio and a jug of iced water coming up.’

‘What’s a Giovanni special?’ Fran asked.

‘Ah.’ Gio coughed. ‘It’s just the topping I like on my pizza. I went through an—um—let’s say experimental phase in my teens. This one stuck.’


‘Blue cheese—preferably dolcelatte—and mushrooms.’

She frowned. ‘That doesn’t sound particularly experimental.’

‘No. That would be the other ingredient,’ he said drily.

She was intrigued now. ‘Which is?’


She blinked. ‘Avocado on pizza? Cooked avocado?’

‘Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it,’ he advised.

He was full of energy, full of ideas, a little offbeat—and the more time Fran spent with Gio, the more she liked him. His good humour was infectious.

What she couldn’t work out was why he’d asked her to dinner. What his proposition was going to be.

When the wine arrived, he didn’t bother tasting it; simply thanked Marco, poured out two glasses, and raised his own in a toast to Fran. ‘To us—and the beginning of what’s going to be a beautiful friendship.’ Again, that mischievous half-smile appeared. ‘Horribly corny. But it’s true anyway. I think we’re going to suit each other.’

‘How do you mean?’ she asked, slightly suspicious.

‘I’m sure you’re used to dealing with confidential material at the studio,’ he said. At her nod, he asked, ‘So I trust you’ll keep my confidence now?’

‘Of course.’

‘OK.’ He took a deep breath. ‘I’m at the point in the business where I need to make some decisions about expansion—either I can open more branches or I can franchise Giovanni’s so we open outlets in other cities besides London. There’s a fair bit of day-to-day admin in running a chain of coffee shops, so I need to free up some of my time to let me move the business forward.’

It all sounded perfectly logical.

‘So I need to find someone who has fabulous organisational skills. Someone who’ll be able to be my number two in the business, who can take over from me in juggling rotas and sorting out time management issues, maybe hiring temps or talking people into doing overtime if we have staff off sick. Someone who can sort out the admin, ring the engineers if one of the coffee machines breaks down, help keep the team motivated and not be fazed by dealing with figures and statistics. Someone who’s fantastic on the phone and good with people.’