Monday, March 13, 2017

A Bit of History Lies Beneath Fanizzi's Restaurant, Once Again Open Daily

Fanizzi's "Fresh Fried Sea Scallop Plate" is served for lunch or dinner.
We're so happy to have Fanizzi's up and running again after their recent 6-week closing for structural repairs to this cherished waterfront building, which literally sits right on top of Provincetown Harbor. Welcome back!
537-539 Commercial Street, where Fanizzi's restaurant and parking area sit today, was the location of a fishing empire known as Whorf's Wharf, built by Thomas Rider Whorf, Jr. in 1850, and later run by his son, Phillip A. Whorf.
These Whorfs shared an ancestor, generations apart, with the artists John, Carol and Nancy Whorf, though they were not direct descendants.
At one time this busy pier stretched 400 feet into the harbor, serving its own fleet of 16 boats engaged in various types of fishing, while shipping some of the catch to markets as far away as Chicago. 130 men were employed in the operation.
There was a windmill on the property, presumably part of a saltworks where seawater was pumped to a system of trays and troughs. The water was evaporated to produce the salt used in drying and preserving much of the fish caught by Whorf's fleet.
This 1890s photo shows busy Whorf's Wharf, employing some 130 fishermen, salt
workers, sailmakers and others in serving and operating 16 boats. The old
sail loft very likely became Fanizzi's Restaurant by the Sea, as we know it today.
The wharf also had its own sail loft for fabricating and repairing the many sails for its sizable fleet, and Fanizzi's building is almost certainly that old sail loft, still sitting on pilings at the edge of the beach.
The recent repairs, including new pilings installed beneath the restaurant, should ensure many more years of life for this historic building dating back to the height of Provincetown's great whaling and fishing era, often called the Golden Age of Sail.
Sitting in Fanizzi's dining room, above those pilings, with the waves and tides lapping below, is one of the great pleasures of dining in Provincetown. And the view! Cape Cod Bay winds along the distant shoreline of Truro, and becomes Provincetown Harbor as it reaches the tip of the Cape and the lighthouse at Long Point. Our picturesque beaches stretch both east, with a view of Beach Point, and west, offering a striking view of the Pilgrim Monument, and often a golden glow as the sun is setting. These and other stunning sights are easily seen from your table. That superb, 180 degree view of the harbor is unparalleled. There's even a view from the bar.
Fanizzi's Friday Night Fish Fry is a large serving of local cod with fries, slaw,
dinner rolls and salad, all for $13.99. Go early, before this great bargain sells out.
On my most recent lunchtime visit to Fanizzi's, I felt more like having a "dinner" sort of meal, so I ordered from a selection of entrées that started at just $8.99 for Eggplant Parmigiana baked in homemade marinara sauce and a blanket of cheese, served over campanile pasta. Fanizzi's is quite well-known for good food at very reasonable prices. Big, juicy, eight-ounce Angus burgers start at $10.99, while 16 sandwiches, specialties and wraps start at $9.99. There are daily lunch and dinner specials, too.
The meal I chose that day was among half-a-dozen seafood entrées on the lunch menu. I had the  fried scallops, shown in the photo above. This was a generous serving of ten plump, fresh, local sea scallops, lightly battered and quickly fried until just golden brown, served with Fanizzi's great French fries and their unique coleslaw. I believe the very light dressing on the coleslaw starts with a bit of rice wine vinegar instead of a mayonnaise-based sauce. It's fresh flavors give it just a hint of sweetness, and it's probably my favorite coleslaw in town.
Visit Fanizzi's at 539 Commercial Street, now open again every day, serving lunch from 11:30 AM till 3:45 PM, with dinner served from 4 PM till closing. Five Early Bird dinner specials are available from 4:30 to 6 PM for just $15.99. Catch their Friday Night Fish Fry for $13.99, and don't forget Sunday Brunch, 10 AM till 2 PM, serving all you'd care to eat for $14.95, $8.95 for kids. But be sure to save a little room for one of their mammoth-sized, homemade desserts!
We welcome back Fanizzi's Restaurant by the Sea, and their thoughtful, friendly staff.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Extreme Cold Snap Recalls Provincetown's Brutal Winter of 1918

This 1918 photo of Robert Lewis was taken by his father, Captain William Lewis,
on the tidal flats at the foot of Cook Street. The ice stood 10 feet, two inches high.
This bitter cold snap combined with strong, steady winds has given us two or three days of piercingly cold temperatures, with wind chill temps dropping into the subzero range. This is the sort of weather where being outdoors for more than a few moments can be dangerous.
Thankfully, today's temperature rose well into the twenties while winds were dropping to 20 mph or lower, and we'll be into warmer weather in a couple of days. Whew!
A few years back I wrote about an extended, bitter cold snap nearly 100 years ago, perhaps the most trying stretch of winter weather Provincetown has seen. Around this time in 1918 PTowners were enduring cruel winds in subfreezing temperatures, and most were truly struggling to keep warm.
In eight days of extreme cold the town had exhausted its entire supply of coal, the main fuel used for heating in those days, and the coal barges attempting to make deliveries were unable to navigate through the thick, treacherous ice floes that we're choking the harbor. The extraordinary cold had formed  chunks of ice more than ten feet tall along the coastline,, and strong, steady winds kept the ice pushed into the harbor. At each low tide there were giant ice floes resting on the tidal flats. The Advocate, Provincetown's weekly newspaper at the time, said “Taken all together it was the most disagreeable eight days endured by the community within recollection.” 
Even though the weather began to turn a tiny bit warmer, those enormous chunks of harbor ice would take a long time to melt, and in the meantime, no ships could get in or out of Provincetown Harbor. The paper reported that “With the exception of a mere handful of days, ice has continued to form in day or night almost constantly on the shore of Cape Cod bay since early in January."
On Valentine's day a large ice floe drifting near the mouth of the harbor was driven toward the shoreline at 571 Commercial Street, where the old fish shack at the end of Lewis Wharf had been converted to a theater for the Provincetown Players. The force of tons of ice pushing against the pilings of the old wharf threatened to destroy the magical spot where the career of unknown playwright Eugene O'Neill had been launched two years earlier. Although the structure survived this onslaught, it was indeed ice in the harbor that demolished the wharf in the winter of 1921.
In the photo above we can see ten-foot, two-inch thick chunks of ice that clogged the harbor in that dreadful winter of 1918, resting on the flats at low tide, creating tremendous physical hardships for townsfolk and wreaking havoc on their economy as well. Not only were fuel barges turned away by the ice, but the fishing fleet was kept ashore for more than 30 days as well. The harbor was simply unnavigable.
When a northeast wind finally breached the ice and began pushing it, little by little, toward Truro, the harbor once again became passable, but the exceptional cold and a frozen harbor had made January through early March of 1918 the most brutal winter in Provincetown's memory.