EVEN after he was arrested, on Feb. 20, 1986, for selling cocaine to an undercover police officer at Vermont's Middlebury College, John Zaccaro Jr. didn't think he was in any real trouble. "I figured they had done this with a lot of students," he says, "and that I'd get a slap on the wrist." It was a naive notion from the son of Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential candidate whose political career barely survived media scrutiny of her husband's financial dealings. The next day, recalls Zaccaro, 30, "there were more press people covering my arraignment than there were assigned to all of Vermont." Zaccaro, a senior majoring in history, was sentenced to one-to-five years in jail, 300 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine—and withdrew from Middlebury.

After serving four months of house arrest in Burlington, Zaccaro got his B.A. from New York City's Hunter College in 1989 and went into the food business in Manhattan, opening the Ravioli Store in 1988 and Cascabel, an 80-seat bistro, in 1992. "I keep an eye on costs and make sure the quality of the food is consistent," he says. In the midst of these culinary endeavors, Zaccaro, who has never been in trouble again, also picked up a law degree from Catholic University in Washington.

"I got a hard lesson at 22," says Zaccaro, who married marketing consultant Anne Elizabeth Rasmussen, 30, in July. "I'm glad it didn't happen when I was 35 or 40, with two kids and a lot more to lose."