Restaurants come and go in Provincetown. Sal’s Place came in 1963 — almost a half century ago — and is still around, as is the founder and namesake, Salvatore Del Deo, though he’s no longer connected with the business. The restaurant is housed in the Union Wharf Building, an upland relic of the Union Wharf, which was built around 1830-1. This structure was the first home of the Seamen’s Savings Bank, from 1852 to 1868. It was here that Leander Rockwell, a seaman from Nova Scotia, made the first deposit of $36. The bank’s next move was only a short distance away, to the Union Exchange at 90 Commercial Street.
This was the property of Andrew T. Williams at the turn of the 20th century, at which time it was denominated 84 Commercial Street. The Skipper restaurant was open for business here in the 1950s, serving three meals a day year ’round. Just before Del Deo arrived, in the early 1960s, 99 Commercial served as the Front Street Gallery. If you’ve ever wondered: the Sal of Sal’s Place is indeed the Sal of Ciro & Sal’s, though the businesses were never connected. Sal Del Deo and Ciro Cozzi opened their restaurant in the East End in 1953 but their partnership dissolved in 1959.
Three years later, Del Deo started a new restaurant here. The waterfront dining room was constructed in 1965 by Jesse Meads. The property includes the remnant of Union Wharf, with a couple of buildings. In her 1981 account of the restaurant, in A Taste of Provincetown (Shank Painter Publishing Company), Gillian Drake said that Sal’s offered “a pure Italian cucina and makes no attempt at international variations.” She said all four Del Deos — Josephine, the prominent preservationist; and the two children, Romolo and Giovanna — were actively involved in the restaurant. Drake continued:
Over the years, the restaurant has also served as a kind of gallery where many painters have shown their work, musicians have played, poets recited and friends have returned to check a photograph tacked up over their favorite table. Sal, a painter himself, thinks of his cooking as an art, and if you ask him, he’ll say — ‘Good artists make good cooks.’
Del Deo turned the business over in 1989 to Jack and Lora Papetsas, who had both worked at Sal’s and had patronized it. The restaurant is currently run by Lora Papetsas and her son, Alexander.