by Jeannette de Beauvoir
“The question we asked ourselves last year, as we celebrated our 50th anniversary,” says Tony Zampella, general manager of Sal’s Place, “is how we can continue to preserve the old Provincetown that the restaurant represents … and bring more relevance to it in the 21st century.”
The establishment has found its answer in two unexpected ways: through a new “Living Well” menu, and the addition of fine art to the fine-dining experience. Artist Salvatore del Deo opened the restaurant originally to “keep himself in paint,” so it’s no surprise that Sal’s Place has chosen to continue that artistic tradition—but with a newer, edgier art vibe, which features artists in three of the restaurant’s gallery-like venues.
The first artist to be featured in its Waterview Room is—fittingly—himself Italian: Eastham resident Nino Scimeca, whose work is bold, edgy, and alive with unexpected vistas. “I was stunned at first,” admits Lora Papetsas, who co-owns Sal’s Place with her son Alexander. “There’s this immediate ‘wow’ factor—but then you grow with the time you spend with the piece.” Through sitting and enjoying good food and good company, people can take their time to absorb meanings in the paintings they might not notice during a typical Provincetown gallery stroll. “We really want the restaurant to be known for certain experiences,” Zampella adds. “This is about stretching your idea of what art is.”
Scimeca, whose patrons include Guy Laliberte, co-founder and current CEO of Cirque du Soleil, has always been interested in the reactions of non-art-critics, the responses of “normal people going into my oil painting scene and, like a daydream, living the intense atmosphere created in there.”
“Nino is, first and foremost, a philosopher,” says Zampella. “With each of our artists we wanted to try something different. We wanted to feature story–art that provokes a philosophical dialogue between the piece and the viewer. We’re looking to engage people with the art, to allow a conversation with it. Nino’s art questions the human condition. He’s tapping into something universal.”
Zampella believes that the restaurant’s guests, many from urban centers, will appreciate a fresh sensibility, which led Sal’s Place to something else that is becoming more universal: a desire for lighter, healthier food. The restaurant already features light and traditional homemade Italian fare, and this year has added a Living Well menu that’s heavy on health rather than on calories.
“It’s a whole philosophy of well-being and living healthy,” says Papetsas. “Some people have been surprised that an Italian restaurant is taking this approach, but Italian cooking has always been about freshness and balance. What we’re doing here is offering additional choices.”
The menu was designed with the help of well-known local vegan chef Star Chicaderis, and offers delicious vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. The dishes are prepared using specially designated cookware and include raw kale and other salads, rigatoni alla vodka, rigatoni alla puttanesca, and tempeh triangles. In addition, patrons can substitute gluten-free rigatoni for wheat pasta in dishes from the regular menu, which “opens up the whole menu to people looking for a wheat alternative,” says Zampella. “We’re on the cutting edge of something that is going to just keep gathering momentum.”
Chicaderis agrees. “Tony and Lora share an understanding of energy and consciousness around diet and customer service,” she says. “They are meeting the needs of all of their customers with honesty and respect with the addition of the Living Well menu, as well as making some adjustments on the existing menu.”
Both the new Living Well menu and the addition of the art vibe speak to a restaurant that is listening to the needs of the community and responding in fresh, creative, and unexpected ways.
And perhaps it’s that sense of feeling something extraordinary that best sums up Sal’s Place’s new vibe: eating healthy food, touching the world of art in creative ways, and experiencing both the old and the new Provincetown in an atmosphere that engages all the senses. “Living and eating should all be about choices,” says Zampella.
And Sal’s Place is providing them.
Sal’s Place is located at 99 Commercial St., Provincetown. Their Tuscan Wine Room opens at 4:30 p.m. daily and dinner is served 5:30 – 10 p.m. nightly. For reservations and information, call 508.487.1279 or visit