John Rosatti’s is a businessman who has all the trappings of success. He enjoys his snazzy wheels on
terra firma and his Gulfstream G4 in the friendly skies, but his overriding passion is the sea and boats. A few months ago, he owned three of them: a 2008 74′ Viking Sport Fish Open Bridge and two motoryachts, the 2005 157’ Nice N’ Easy and the 2010 162′ Remember When, both of which were built at Christensen Shipyard in Vancouver, Wash. As is often the case with buying, building and selling, the new yacht was delivered before the old one was sold, but luckily, Mark Elliott of International Yacht Collection was able to sell Nice N’ Easy in a scant two months, a testament to both Elliott and the quality of the boat. Rosatti’s three yachts gracing our cover were photographed off Miami Beach near Fisher Island, where Rosatti enjoys spending time with his family. I caught up with John Rosatti aboard Remember When in Fort Lauderdale, shortly after his brisk morning power walk. Rosatti, a ruggedly handsome man in his 60s, sports a perennial tan and speaks with a soft, gravelly voice. He appears a bit serious at first, but the shell dissolves easily as he breaks into an engaging smile. He exudes an old-world charm—his cell phone plays a couple bars of “New York, New York,” before he picks up. He is definitely more Frank Sinatra than Snoop Dogg. He is also on a new health kick that includes exercising, eating responsibly and cutting his calories from drinking to zero. He shakes his head and admits, “It was getting so bad, and I couldn’t tie my shoes!” He now has a new lease on life. Having lost 50 pounds, he says he feels good and is determined to maintain his new regimen. This is a challenge given the fact that he spends a lot of time aboard Remember When, is invested in four restaurants and food is a big part of his Italian family culture. Crewed luxury yachts are not the easiest place to diet. His onboard chef is top notch and eager to create gourmet dishes, but Rosatti says, “My chef is now trained to prepare bland food for me.” We then joked about how he really meant to say “spa” food. I commented that he must have a lot of willpower. He shakes his head and smiles resignedly, “Not really, but I want to live a long time.” His beloved wife, Bonni, mother of his three children, died tragically in a car accident in 2000. In the last decade, he has had to negotiate running a demanding business and being a hands-on, full-time single father. He credits his sister, Dorothy, and mother, Angelina, for helping him out with child–rearing over the years. Sadly, his mother passed away last summer.
Family has always been central to Rosatti. He was raised Catholic by third-generation Italian parents in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn, NY. His father was a city worker and his mother was a seamstress. While family finances were modest, he was raised with love and imbued with a strong sense of faith and community. Large, traditional Sunday dinners were the bastion of his upbringing. A strong work ethic was also instilled in him. He picked up pocket money making deliveries on his bicycle when he was 11, and he garnered his mechanical skills at an early age. “I started rebuilding cars with my father in the backyard when I was 15. When I was 16, I worked at a local corner store where a fellow worker inspired me to take the money I had saved and invest in a dump truck and become an independent contractor. In 1968, I opened an auto body shop in Brooklyn, which lead me to get into the auto dealership industry in 1972.”
Rosatti has maintained a connection to his roots and to people from his past. In fact, he and former neighborhood buddy, John Staluppi, began tinkering with cars and boats as teenagers. Rosatti worked hard and he played hard. In 1976, Rosatti and Staluppi began racing Cigarettes, competing in the Benihana races all over the country. Their combined technical and nautical know-how paid off, and though they never came in first, they did win a few trophies. Moreover, they cemented a friendship that led to a business partnership in Millennium Super Yachts, a company dedicated to building fast, lightweight flashy-looking boats. One of the last yachts built by Millennium was a Frank Mulder-designed 140-footer called The World Is Not Enough—the goal was for this semi-displacement boat to hit a top speed of 70 knots. She was pretty darn fast, but that magic number was never quite achieved.
In 2000, Rosatti moved from New York to South Florida, principally to devote himself to raising his three children. He sold off a large portion of his car dealerships but maintained Plaza Auto Mall, which has been running successfully for more than 30 years. Now his eldest daughter, Angela, and son, Adam, are in college and Crystal, the youngest, is about to enter her freshman year in the fall. Rosatti becomes animated when discussing his kids and their accomplishments. In some ways, boating has been the glue that held him and his family together. Being aboard a boat is an intimate way to connect with teenagers in particular. After all, when you are anchored off the Bahamas, it is hard to grab the keys to the car and drive away.
Rosatti really likes to use his boats. They do not sit at a dock. He cruised Nice N’ Easy over to Europe in 2007. And after taking delivery of Remember When, he took three months off and traveled 5,500 miles with his family, cruising the West Coast of the United States and then on through the Panama Canal to Florida. He even lived aboard last summer. “My kids come and go depending on their schedules, and they bring friends with them. We go frequently to the Bahamas to snorkel and fish. On Nice N’ Easy, we went up to New York, to Sag Harbor and to the City where I own a slip at North Cove Marina, and then we cruised around New England.”
Clearly, there are similarities between Nice N’ Easy and Remember When. Rosatti says he enjoyed the layout of Nice’ N Easy, which he bought from the previous owner. It was built in 2005 for an experienced yachtsman and launched under the name Liquidity. Rosatti says, “I had a very positive experience with the Christensen, so I decided to stick with them. I am a fan of composite construction and feel the maintenance costs are lower than metal boats.”
Joe Foggia, president of Christensen, and his wife, Judy, were aboard Remember When while I was conducting my interview. It is obvious that their relationship with Rosatti has transcended an ordinary builder/owner affiliation. They certainly have a tremendous rapport and respect for each other, but they also seem to have bonded as genuine friends. Foggia says, “John Rosatti has been an ideal customer for Christensen. He is someone who is really a user of his boats, so we have gained invaluable feedback, both positive and constructive criticism, on all aspects of our product. We are proud of our relationship with John. We feel we are good friends.”
Remember When has many of the same elements as Nice N’ Easy. The exterior styling by Christensen has their signature raised forward full-shear bulwark. The layout is roughly the same, main salon, dining area on the main deck with a master suite forward, a VIP and four guest cabins. However, with the length of the boat extended by five feet, everything is a bit more spacious. The sun deck is six feet wider and nine feet longer, allowing the yacht to carry two Harley Davidsons and two Vespas. The hot tub on this deck is centerline with barstool seating around it—an idea of Rosatti’s. The classic Carol Williamson Associates interior features book-matched black walnut paneling throughout. The exquisite custom stonework was crafted in-house by Christensen. The styling of the wheelhouse windows is a departure from the old boat. Remember When boasts vertical windows and Nice N’Easy features raked windows. Christensen first implemented vertical windows on Casino Royale, which coincidentally, was built by Staluppi (but has since been sold). Also new to Remember When is a Dynamic Positioning and Hold at Anchor system by UK-based Ocean Yacht Systems (OYS) and Navis maneuvering and control system. Christensen’s in-house team worked closely with OYS to devise a system using bow and stern thrusters of 100 hp apiece that are linked to Remember When’s GPS system. This permits the captain to keep the yacht close to a specific setting. It’s also capable of pushing the yacht along at upward of three knots. Since the stern thruster extends about four feet below the yacht’s bottom when the system is engaged, Christensen and OYS took other steps to ensure safety. The thruster retracts once the yacht hits five knots of vessel speed. Remember When is powered by twin MTU 12V 4000 series engines, cruises comfortably at 12 knots, but tops out at 17.5 knots. She is fully classified and certified to ABS (Maltese Cross) A1-AMS & MCA Unlimited Cruising. And unlimited cruising is what Rosatti has in mind. Rosatti is a hands-on owner who enjoys taking the helm, plus he understands the nitty gritty. He is still involved with his various businesses, but it seems he is at a stage of his life where he wants to take the time to smell the roses. Nonetheless, he also likes to keep up with his diversified interests: cars, planes and boats. And, diet aside, he also likes restaurants; he is currently in invested in four: DeVito in South Beach; two Vic & Angelo’s, one in Palm Beach Gardens, the other in Delray Beach; and The Office, a gastropub, also in Delray Beach. Maybe because those are running successfully, he needs something else to do. He recently he became involved with a chain of high-end burger places, called Burgifi that will be offered for franchise— “burgification of the nation,” he pronounces with a laugh.
In addition to business, boats and burgers, Rosatti is dedicated to several charitable organizations, the American Heart Association/North Palm Beach Heart Ball, Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County and the GP Foundation for cancer research (founded in part by Denise Rich, owner of another Christensen, Lady Joy). His largest donation to date was a $1 million gift to the Benjamin School in North Palm Beach to fund the Rosatti Administrative/Library and Media Center, which was named in honor of his late wife, Bonni.
What’s next? Well, I am betting it is not the tofu-cation of the nation. Rosatti, however, did mention something about a new 175-footer on the horizon. Despite his yacht being called a nostalgic Remember When, Rosatti is happily looking forward to a bright healthy future and as is his proclivity, he can always say, “I did it my way.”
STORY Jill Bobrow