It’s a wonder that Napi’s is “only” reaching its 40th anniversary, it’s so interwoven with town life. It couldn’t be anywhere else; not with a wildly sculptural brick wall by Conrad Malicoat and a cold-air duct embellished with an Arctic scene by Jackson Lambert. Napi’s is the product of a personal vision that’s imaginative, free-flowing, resourceful, ornery, more than a bit eccentric, and deeply rooted in the town. The impresario in this case is the peppery, garrulous Napi Van Dereck (pictured), who runs the restaurant with his wife, Helen (Schmidt) Van Dereck.
In 1973, they bought No. 7 from Mary Santos. There were a series of garages at the rear of the property that the couple proposed to rebuild as a restaurant. The banks turned them down, compelling the Van Derecks to build it themselves, with second-hand material and help from Lambert, Bob Baker, Mike Bagley, and others. Side walls were removed to enlarge the interior space. A yard in Quincy supplied yellow pine salvaged from Boston factories. “This is a green building, if you want to get into it,” Napi told me. Napi’s opened in June 1975 and is still going strong, patronized by fresh-off-the-bus day-trippers and longtime residents who appreciate having a dependably pleasant rendezvous. A walk around the restaurant reveals some very fine Provincetown paintings on display; the merest tip of Helen and Napi’s extraordinary collection. Your host may catch you perusing the artwork and come over and tell you a story about the painting you’re looking at: the history of the building, the tales of those who lived and worked there, and how that all fits into the Provincetown panorama.
More than 2,000 buildings and vessels are searchable on buildingprovincetown.com. The Building Provincetown book is available for purchase ($20) at Town Hall, Office of the Town Clerk, 260 Commercial Street, Provincetown 02657.