211 Bradford Street

Former Cesco’s Italian Restaurant

211 Bradford Street in a 1921 postcard. [Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell 6:61 / Dowd Collection / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 1998]

View from Cesco Lane. [2014, Dunlap]

View from Bradford Street. [2009, Dunlap]

Text last updated in 2015 | To say simply that this was Cesco’s Italian Restaurant misses the point that Cesco, the “Spaghetti King of Cape Cod,” was a phenomenon, still recalled in the name of the intersecting road: Cesco Lane. (You’ll see it spelled Chesco, too, as it would have been pronounced in Italian.)

Mary Heaton Vorse’s step-brother, Fred Marvin, a student of Charles Hawthorne, met Francesco “Cesco” Ronga in Naples and took him on as a “valet.” Ronga was said to have “the gay, volatile and changeable temperament of a true Neapolitan.” To our eyes, it looks like a longtime love affair cloaked in a fairly thin veil. They were devoted to one another more than 40 years until Marvin’s death in 1942, Amy Whorf McGuiggan told me.

Cesco’s Italian Restaurant, where the Beachcombers was founded in 1916, passed to Patricia Hallett after Cesco’s death in 1947. The artist Harvey Dodd lived here in the ’60s, and the sculptor Richard Pepitone ran an art school here in the ’70s.

Steve Silberman wrote on 26 May 2013: “Ward, cook, man Friday, and companion.” [Phrasing from an earlier version of this article.] Isn’t the phrase you’re circumlocuting here “life-partner” or even “husband,” though they couldn’t have been legally married? Apparently, they were together for 50 years. “Ward” sounds rather like Batman and Robin.

Amy Whorf McGuiggan wrote on 15 February 2014: Yes, indeed, they appear to have been devoted to one another for more than 40 years until Fred’s death in 1942 at the age of 77. Cesco died in 1947 at the age of 69. He had arrived in the United States from Paris in 1903 as Fred’s “valet.” The couple spent considerable time abroad over the course of their lives.

The gathering at Cesco’s in July 1916 that formed the Beachcombers Club included such luminaries as Charles Hawthorne, William Bicknell, Ambrose Webster and George Senseney. Senseney became the club’s first Skipper. Fred Marvin, an artist and intellectual who was described as a pure spirit, was elected Purser but abruptly resigned before the end of the evening! He was replaced by Harry Campbell, Hawthorne’s brother-in-law and director of Hawthorne’s Cape Cod School of Art. As for Cesco, he was known for his unique personality, robust singing, green thumb, and his homemade red wine with which, it was said, the new Beachcombers Club was christened. The restaurant became a popular rendezvous for artists and bon-vivants.

¶ Republished on 4 October 2023.

211 Bradford Street on the Town Map, showing property lines.

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