02/13/1995 at 01:00 AM EST
For all the seductive cookery that went on in the 1992 Mexican film Like Water for Chocolate—the story of a young woman who woos her lover with epicurean delights—the sizzling didn't really start until weeks after the wrap. It was only when they returned to their respective homelands that the movie's stars, Mexico-born Lumi Cavazos and Marco Leonardi, a native Italian, realized the extent of their feelings for each other. "I was missing Marco so much," says Cavazos. "I realized I was in love with him."
"I felt the same," Leonardi says softly. "I told her that I missed something inside of me."
Soon the two were talking incessantly—in a bouillabaisse of Spanish and Italian—via transatlantic phone calls. "The distance made it very hard," recalls Cavazos, 25. "I thought our love was not possible." Such trepidation proved brief. "We were suffering because we were apart so much," explains the 23-year-old Leonardi. "But we knew it would work because we were meant to be together."
They visited each other's countries for weeks on end, met in Puerto Rico when Cavazos was filming a Spanish miniseries there and last July took the plunge and moved into a modest apartment in Los Angeles. Yet, unlike many Hollywood couples who find themselves competing, these two, with four forthcoming film roles between them, seem to delight in each other's successes. "If Lumi gets a role," says Leonardi, "it is double the happiness for us."
That's hard to imagine, given the couple's blissed-out domesticity, which aptly includes a pair of cooing lovebirds, Papa and Gallo. Most telling of all is that Cavazos, in real life no gastronome, seems to be taking a tip from her character in Chocolate. "Sometimes I make flan," she confides, "because Marco loves it."