FAMILY FIRST: Teacher resigns to help with pizza businessPublished 8:43pm Monday, February 11, 2013
Cristina Cilluffo loved being a teacher at her alma mater, Southside High School. For five years, she tried to make pre-algebra as fun for her students as it was for her.
But her love for teaching did not keep her from resigning. A greater love won out.
Cristina decided to come to work alongside her parents, Vincenso and Marianne Cilluffo, at Frank’s Pizza.
“I didn’t resign because I hated teaching. I love teaching,” Cristina said. “But family comes first. Since my uncle died, my dad has been working every day and he needs a little break.”
Vincenso opened the Washington restaurant with his brother, Antonio, 27 years ago.
Cristina was only 5 months old.
“She basically grew up in the storage room. We used to keep her in a playpen in the back,” Vincenso said.
Cristina inherited the “family first” philosophy from her dad. He and Antonio chose to close the restaurant on Saturdays so that each could spend more time with family.
Things changed about 18 months ago, when Antonio drowned. His widow no longer wanted to be a part of the business. Vincenso said, “Her heart wasn’t there.”
Vincenso and Marianne started working longer hours as they searched for a restaurant manager. Vincenso interviewed a few people, but he did not find anyone he felt comfortable placing in charge in his absence.
After a long discussion, Cristina volunteered to help run the business.
She misses her “Southside family” and will keep her teaching credentials current, but does not plan to return to teaching anytime soon. The restaurant is her top priority.
“They put me through college. Now it’s time to return the favor,” she said.
Vincenso talked a lot about Cristina’s education. He retraced every step, from Eastern Elementary to Chocowinity Middle School and on to East Carolina University.
“She changed majors and still finished in just four years,” he said.
Vincenso grew up in Sicily, Italy. His dad, a farmer with a first-grade education who vowed to get all of his children through high school, raised Vicenso to value education.
Vicenso’s vow was for college educations for his daughters.
“And what they did with that (degree) is up to them,” he said.
He said it felt good to have Cristina working with him.
“She’s good with people and she’s prettier than me,” he laughed. “At least I have somebody to watch my back.”