St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Letter to the editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Amy Scherzer's Diary

Published July 13, 2007


If Amy Zaccaria and Anthony "Nino" Martino made their love story into a movie, it would be a hilarious comedy called Meet the Martinos. The newlyweds would star with six others who holed up with them for four crazy days during Hurricane Charley.

"Not exactly Meet the Fockers," Zaccaria said, "but what a way to get to know a person."

And that person's parents, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles and assorted cousins.

All were thrown together during one of the strongest hurricanes to hit Florida in a decade.

"It would make it or break it," Martino said of the intense initiation into his family. They weathered the storm and couldn't wait to see each other again. As the credits roll, they see only sunny skies ahead.

- - -

The setting is Indian Rocks Beach, August 2004. Martino has invited Zaccaria to the condo owned by his parents, Anthony T. and Dolores Martino, for the weekend. Rounding out the cast are Martino's sisters, Bebe and Monica; a new boyfriend of Bebe's now her husband; and one of his pals.

Before a dire warning of a Category 3 hurricane sends them packing and headed for safety at the Martino homestead in Tampa, the film flashes back to their first date weeks earlier.

They'd been introduced twice that summer by classmates of Zaccaria's at the University of South Florida College of Medicine who knew both of them. The first time, they were dating others. By the second time, both were freed up.

"Nino asked me out to dinner but didn't tell me we were going to a birthday party for Bebe," said Zaccaria, 26, who is as shy as Martino, 28, is extroverted.

What she anticipated, an intimate, get-to-know-you evening, turned out to be a festive celebration in a private room at a Channelside restaurant.

"Very intimidating," Zaccaria said.

She must have earned the sisters' seal of approval because Martino called the next day.

"Broke my rule," teased Martino, who works in his father's law firm, Clark and Martino. "My sisters liked her and their opinion is very important to me."

The rest of the Martinos would get their chance to judge her soon enough. After one night at the beach condo, Hurricane Charley whirled toward Tampa.

"My parents woke everyone up and made us all rush back to Tampa," Martino said. "They worried the bridges might be closing." For the next 72 hours, Zaccaria drowned in Martinos.

"Controlled chaos" was how she described fleeing to her future in-laws' Beach Park home. "Privacy was nonexistent with three guys sleeping in the living room." The strong winds also blew in other relatives who live nearby.

"You run out of small talk when you're locked up together," said Martino, who is known for never running out of conversation. Zaccaria says he's so chatty he could talk to a tree.

When cabin fever struck, they grilled steaks, flipped between comedy DVDs and the Weather Channel, and put on waders to trudge through flooded streets.

At one point, future doctor Zaccaria was quizzed on medical procedures by her future father-in-law. Zaccaria felt like he was deposing her for one of his malpractice lawsuits.

"At least I was spared the baby albums," she said.

- - -

Charley struck the northern tip of Captiva Island at 150 mph and caused severe damage as it made landfall near Port Charlotte. In a sudden change of track, it turned northeast through Orlando and spared Tampa.

Zaccaria drove home, counting the hours till she could be with Martino again.

Cue the camera to catch Zaccaria on hospital rotations and Martino passing the Bar exam. The pair made time for their interests: Gator and Bucs football games, boating and baking.

"For the first time, Tampa felt like home," she said.

As they grew closer, they discussed serious issues, like having children (yes), where to live (South Tampa), and changing her last name (he was adamant). In March, they bought a home in Palma Ceia and she adjusted her neatness with his messiness.

The proposal scene came in June 2006, during dinner at Armani's, atop the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. Zaccaria thought they were celebrating the end of her third year of medical school. She had no idea that Martino had invited their friends and families to a surprise engagement party that night.

"I'd originally planned to propose on our trip to Alaska, but I was told the cell phone power's not so great in Denali National Park," he said. "Amy wouldn't be able to call everyone."

Instead, on the balcony overlooking Tampa Bay at sunset, Martino asked her to be his wife. As predicted, she soon reached for her phone to share the news.

He had alerted everyone not to answer but to get to the party, where a huge "Congratulations Amy & Nino" banner hung across the yard. Among the guests were her parents, Bonnie and Al Zaccaria, of Ormond Beach.

A few days later, the engaged couple left for Alaska with their parents to fish, sightsee and plan the wedding.

Zaccaria received her medical degree May 3 and was accepted into USF's ophthalmology residency. The doctor married the lawyer May 19 at the Academy of the Holy Names, attended by 11 bridesmaids and 11 groomsmen, before honeymooning for 11 days in Maui, where the weather was perfect - and no family members joined them.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at or (813) 226-3332.



Love stories

Share your story

Love is in the air; wedding invitations are in the mail. If an intriguing twist led to your walk down the aisle, e-mail


[Last modified July 12, 2007, 08:43:10]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters