Pat Mucci's life is not what many people would call
balanced. A workshop administrator for 12 years at
Designed Learning, a consulting firm, she and her husband
recently decided to open a casual, 58-seat Italian
restaurant called La Cucina in nearby Linden, N.J.
As a chef for 15 years, her husband was accustomed
to working long hours, but he had a dream of his own
place. Mucci recalls talking about it. "We said if we're
going to put in 12 hours a day, six days a week, why not
put in 14 hours, make it seven days, and have our own
place and really be able to reap the benefits." Neither
of them expected to take this step quite so soon in their
four-year marriage. "We're at an age where we're not
kids, but we're not too old to take on the time
commitment," Mucci says. They're in their early
"We understood that this was going to take a chunk
of our lives, but it was such a passion for him, I wanted
to do it," she says, adding, "It's a collaboration of
sorts." He creates the product; she presents it. He runs
the kitchen: planning menus, purchasing and cooking.
Mucci runs the front end: marketing, greeting customers
and managing the serving staff.
So her evenings and weekends are committed to
building La Cucina into a thriving business. Weekdays,
however, "I work a standard business day at Designed
Learning," Mucci says. She couldn't have jumped into
supporting her husband without an employer willing to be
"They know they can't expect a total commitment to
the organization without some sense of giving back."
Designed Learning freed Mucci up one day a week so she
could handle La Cucina's start-up activities earlier this
year. Right now her income from the firm funds their
day-to-day lives: "I'm keeping a roof over our heads
until the business starts making a profit."
So she makes the 15-minute commute to the
restaurant after a full day at the office, and spends her
weekends there. "What it has affected is our down time.
There isn't any," she laughs. "He can't have someone else
ordering. He can't have someone else butchering or
handling the seafood. He just has to be very hands-on
But she envisions an adjustment, once La Cucina is
on its feet. "Bringing on someone else," she believes,
"is going to be sort of a perk down the road." Then they
can take some time away and return to a more traditional
For now, Mucci finds this stressful equilibrium worth the
long-term struggle. She knows it may not be for everyone,
and acknowledges if they had children, it would probably
be impossible. "If the commitment isn't there, don't do
it," she advises. "It'll just tumble down." Business is
good these days at La Cucina, and Linden residents are
proving that Pat Mucci's decision to be temporarily
unbalanced was a wise one.
August 2000 NFC Homepage