Cape Cod, Massachusetts has been a seasonal tourist destination for more than a century. Drawing from places like Boston, New York, Providence, Connecticut and New Jersey, many of the visitors have Italian American ancestry. The first Italian restaurant opened on the Cape in 1946, in Dennis. The restaurant, Rose's, closed in 2000 after more than five decades of service. A few of the early Italian restaurant spots remain across Cape Cod, joined by more modern incarnations. Today, visitors can find a mix of modern Italian cuisine and classic Italian American red sauce across the Cape.
Ciro & Sal’s
Ciro & Sal’s is one of the oldest Italian American restaurants on the Cape. Founded as a cafe in 1954 by Italian Americans Ciriaco Cozzi and Salvatore Del Deo, it quickly became a favorite spot for both local fishermen and the artists who summered in Provincetown. The restaurant has become an icon in its own right. The restaurant has played a role in local history since it opened, and in 1989, it released a cookbook. The current owner, Larry Luster, began working at the restaurant in 1967 and both his sons continue overseeing operations.
Offering a mix of classic red sauce dishes, seafood, and modern pasta dishes, Sal's has been serving authentic Italian cuisine for five decades. Like many old-school Italian restaurants, Sal's is cash-only.
Montano's has been serving up fresh-made pasta for more than 30 years. The menu features classic Italian American sauces, also all freshly made on-site. In addition to fresh pasta, Montano's has steaks and pizza. The well-regarded restaurant hasn't changed much since it first opened, but experience this classic while you can because it was recently listed for sale.
Operating since 2000, this family-owned Italian restaurant features plenty of classic Italian American dishes like eggplant, chicken, or veal parmigiana, along with seafood dishes like Haddock parmigiano. The restaurant draws on Sicilian-inspired recipes.
Featuring Italian American landlubber classics, this restaurant also has plenty of classic seafood dishes too like linguine vongole or Clams, Mussels, and Calamari Fra Diavolo. Best of all, side dishes of pasta with pesto, ragu, garlic, and oil, or even meatballs are available to add to any entree.
Pecorino Romano Tuscan Cuisine
The menu here features a more modern interpretation of Italian American food. While there are a few updated versions of red sauce classics, the menu is better representative of "northern" style Italian cuisine that grew in popularity in the last few decades. The restaurant is also located in the center of the village of Dennis where Italian Americans settled in the 1930s and 1940s, even earning the community the nickname "Little Italy."
Ian MacAllen is America Domani's Senior Correspondent and the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American. He is a writer, editor, and graphic designer living in Brooklyn. Connect with him at IanMacAllen.com or on Twitter @IanMacAllen.