7:30 P.M., ASIAN SPICE, CHINATOWN
Mario: I was excited, with muted optimism. I got there probably about five to 10 minutes early. They had a wonderful seat for us upstairs.
Nicole: When [I] walked in, he stood up. I was pleasantly surprised. He was very nicely dressed, very professional, clean-cut, buttoned-down pink shirt. I thought, You have to be a confident man to wear pink.
Mario: She was hot. She had on a beautiful black skirt and a blouse with just the right amount of things previewing. We shook hands, then we sat down.
Nicole: He had a gift for me. It was a little bag with a card attached that said, "Let's have a ball on Date Lab." And there were all these little chocolates in there that were shaped like little baseballs and basketballs. I thought [it was] very sweet. The waitress came, [so] we ordered cocktails.
Mario: We talked a little bit about our background [and] things we like to do. She loves to camp and hike, and I do a bit of camping. It was nice that we had [common] interests.
Nicole: We ordered appetizers and sushi. We talked about our children. I was very impressed that he obviously has a very close relationship with his son. We started talking about what was important to us, and he said somebody that had a strong religious faith. I was like, "Even if it's different?" And he was like, "As long as it's Christian."
Mario: My faith is a very important part of who I am. I'm Protestant Christian evangelical, and she's Catholic. So I don't know how that would mesh out. That's just something to explore and get answers about. I think, personality-wise, it was a good match. I'm kind of hyper and Type A, and she's a bit more laid-back, so I think it's a good complement.
Nicole: It's hard to say [if there was chemistry]. There was some flirting. I'm more reserved on a first date, so it was probably more him [doing the flirting]. I think that he is probably what I should be dating. He's my age, he's professional, responsible, intelligent. I've gone out with people who don't challenge me intellectually at all, so I really felt like I could talk to him. But I think I may be a little bit more of a wild child. I have tattoos and piercings, and I can't even imagine that he would.
Mario: I'm not surprised there's a wild child there. There are maybe some differences [between us]. [But] it felt like there was a little connection, a little spark.
Nicole: It was like 10:30, and they were closing [the restaurant]. We went to Rocket Bar to play pool. I beat him two games to zero.
Mario: I guess I'm kind of a ham. A hip-hop song came on, and this random guy at the bar was singing. We were both singing and dancing at the same time, and we started going back and forth. Then Guns N' Roses came on, and it was kind of hard to not sing. That was a solo effort.
Nicole: It definitely made me laugh. The one thing that threw me off was the air guitar on the pool cue. Not a good look.
Mario: We stayed there till about midnight. I gave her a ride to her car. Then we waved, and that was it.
Nicole: I [had] told him I don't have many second dates. I don't have time; I take parenting very seriously. So after he got home he texted me and said he had a wonderful time and he was looking forward to our third date.
Mario: I['d rate the date] a 4 [out of 5]. We did have a great time. The only reservation [is the] religious issue. If I was more certain as to where it would go long term, it would have been a 5.
Nicole: I would probably [rate it a] 4.5. I think I'd have to go out on another date to see [if there's romantic potential].
-- Interviews by Christina Breda Antoniades
Update Nicole and Mario made plans for a second date, but Nicole, in the midst of moving to a new house, had to cancel. "Life has been crazy hectic," she says. As we went to press, they hadn't yet rescheduled.