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DEK: A letter from Provincetown

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“L’Affaire Sal’s Place: Money and Meanness in the New Ptown."

 

By Peter Manso

 

The first thing you notice when you walk into the resurrected Sal’s Place, in the heart of Provincetown’s West End, is the hustle and bustle of a hot restaurant: the place is packed, the noise level is high, and the servers scoot nonstop to and from the close-set tables. There’s a museum-quality Hawthorne and other class art on the walls, but the place still has a fish shack feel, with exposed rafters and the rhythmic slop of the bay against the pilings on which the waterfront building partially sits. And the food—the Brodetto or Zuppa di Pesce that one Facebook blogger raves about as “so wonderful that Marcella [Hazen] herself would flip,”—well, let me tell you, the Zuppa is so sweet, so transporting in its plummy, tomato-y tannic richness as to have made Sal’s the vacation spot’s dining destination of choice near overnight.

All this was pretty much the word around town last summer when the fifty-four year old Sal’s Place reopened under new management. But the food wasn’t the only things people were talking about. There were also whispers that the owner—a single, self-described blue-collar woman who’d originally arrived in Boston from Tipperary at age 17—was at war with her neighbors—four wealthy men, all gay, who had recently bought the abutting properties for summer party pads, and wanted the place dead and shuttered. In fact, depending on who you knew, you might have heard about bouts of property destruction, interminable delays for the restaurant’s opening, and armies of lawyers getting rich on both sides.

 

As the not-so-secret knock-down-drag-out tumbled into public view, eating there became an almost political act. Now, after simmering all winter, locals in P-Town are waiting for the hostilities to start afresh.

 

One resident called the quarrel the “worst case of bullying” he’d come across in his 50 years in town. But you could just as well call the fight over Sal’s place a sort of battle for Provincetown’s soul in miniature—a David and Goliath story about whether the artists, fishermen, and non-mainstream types of all persuasions were still welcome in the new Ptown. Or is this haven at the end of the Cape destined to become an exclusive enclave for the rich gay elite?

 

 

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Click Here for L'affaire Sal's Place

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