NEW YORK – Joe Millionaire winner Zora Andrich's ex-boyfriend still carries a torch for her -- and insists, "She still loves me."
Tony Ercolano, a hunky landscaper from Andrich's hometown who dated her from January 1998 until March 2000, says he loves the sweet brunette who seemed to steal Evan Marriott's heart on TV.
"I'm still in love with her and I always will be," Ercolano, of Flemington, N.J., told The New York Post.
"She still loves me. We have a great relationship. In fact, it's probably better now than it's ever been. She would be my perfect wife. I would love to have children with her. She's a breeder."
The two are still quite close, Ercolano said, even sharing a kiss on Christmas Eve, after Andrich, 29, had returned from the French chateau where Joe Millionaire was taped in the fall.
"We're still very affectionate," he said. "There's still a big love there."
Despite the Yuletide lip-lock, Ercolano remains convinced that he and Andrich are not altar-bound. His love of a good steak and his enjoyment of hunting have created an insurmountable gap between him and his true love.
"She's a vegetarian and I'm a hunter -- and that's what split us up," he said. "I was 32 at the time and set in my ways. I guess I was immature, but I can't change those habits. She's an animal activist. If I was cooking meat in the kitchen, she would get disgusted by the smell of burnt flesh.
"She definitely didn't like that I was a hunter."
Nonetheless, Ercolano could soon be back in the hunt for Andrich's heart.
According to People magazine, vast rifts have opened up between Marriott, the $19,000-a-year construction worker, and Andrich, the woman he chose to "continue the journey" in Joe Millionaire's highly rated finale Monday night.
Andrich, who works with the homeless and seniors, told the magazine that she remains put off by the fact that Marriott, 28, does not share her compassion for the less fortunate.
"There was a time we were on a date in Paris and I was asking Evan, 'Do you feel it's important to contribute to society?' He basically said no," she said.
In fact, Andrich liked the chateau's horses more than her stud.
"Being with the horse, I was in heaven," she said. "I never rule out anything, but honestly, I think [a relationship with Evan] would be highly unlikely. The chances of it are pretty slim," she said, lending even more intrigue to Monday night's Joe Millionaire: The Aftermath special.