The Moors, in a postcard by Bill Bard Associates. [Salvador R. Vasques III Collection / Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum]
The Moors is one of those vanished Provincetown institutions — like Piggy’s and Cookie’s — that is missed even by those who never set foot in the place. It was joyfully vibrant and more than a bit raffish. It drew gourmands and guzzlers, townies and tourists, performers and patrons. It had a strong Portuguese-American accent and visible bonds to the sea. It was a mandatory detour on the way home from New Beach of a summer’s late afternoon, long before Tea Dance at the Boatslip. It was familial and multi-generational. It opened just as the Depression was ending, and lasted until the 21st century, after surviving a fire in 1956 that might have closed another business that wasn’t so beloved by the community.
“The Moors restaurant never looked like much from the exterior,” Geoffrey Kane wrote.⁴ “However, once you entered and got a whiff of the various foods being prepared and the friendly family atmosphere, it was really a very charming, rustic restaurant that made you want to return again and again. Excellent food, friendly wait staff and a Provincetown atmosphere that was impossible to beat.”
It’s worth remembering that its neighbors in the distant West End weren’t exactly thrilled in 1939 when news broke that the builder and carpenter Manuel N. “Maline” Costa (1897-1980)¹ and his wife, Vivian Elizabeth (Marshall) Costa (1904-1951), wanted to transfer their beer and wine license from the Chinese-American Restaurant, 325 Commercial Street, out to a new building on the site of a sand dune at Bradford Street Extension and the Beach Highway, today known as Province Lands Road. (The Costas had previously operated the Shed bar at 319 Commercial Street.)
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Bill Berardi’s photo of Maline Costa on the anchor salvaged by F/V New England in 1959, which remains on the site to this day. [From the “Faces of Provincetown” collection, assembled and scanned at Provincetown High School under the direction of Judith Stayton and held by the family of Gordon Ferreira / Photographed at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum]
The original Moors, as it appeared in 1948. [Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell 2:77 / Dowd Collection / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 28]
Opening day announcement from the Provincetown Advocate of 3 August 1939.
Interior of the Moors from an undated postcard published by Maline N. Costa. [Clive E. Driver Collection / Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum]
Another undated postcard view of the interior. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
“The area is a residential one, devoted to homes, cottages, and hotels,” Ralph Carpenter, the proprietor of the Delft Haven cottage colony, objected before the Board of Selectmen in May. “We protest this transfer because such an establishment would decrease land and property values in the district.” From his summit in Castle Dune, 2 Commercial Street, Dr. Carl Murchison declared that the Costas’ joint had to be resisted to keep the neighborhood “clean.”
But Maline Costa denied he had any intention of opening just another joint. “I plan to build and operate a restaurant,” he said, “and will do so whether or not I am allowed to serve beer and wines. It will be a restaurant primarily in any case.” By mid-June, two enormous tractor sand plows were at work leveling the dune. In their wake, they left a level parcel one-fifth of an acre in extent, on which Costa set out to build a 1,600-square-foot structure.
“Overlooking the lonely, lovely Moors of the Cape Tip.”
The Moors, “Provincetown’s Newest and Only ‘Out of Town’ Restaurant,” was open for business just over a month later. “Truly the ‘Outermost’ Eating Place on all Cape Cod,” the Costas’ ad in the Advocate of 3 August said. “Beautifully situated among the sand dunes. Overlooking the lonely, lovely Moors of the Cape Tip. … Charming Cape Cottage with wide expanses for Parking. Or the ‘Accommodation’ Bus will drop you and pick you up.” The Moors extended its summer season late into the fall that year, and kept big-city hours.
“Come up after the theater or night club,” another ad said on 7 September. “Yes! Open ’til 3 or 4 a.m.”
As the Costas were building the business, they were also raising their sons Mylan Joseph Costa (1935-2021)³ and William Costa. Vivian died in 1951, at 47, after an operation at Cape Cod Hospital. The Advocate noted the critical role she had played both at the Moors and the Shed. “Through her connections with these places, combined with her culinary skill and abilities as hostess, Mrs. Costa had a wide circle of out-of-town friends,” the newspaper said on 22 November 1951. Naomi Costa was Maline’s second wife.
“People are always dropping by on their way back and forth for a bowl of kale soup or for linguiça or vinha d’alhos.”
By 1954, the Moors could truly be called “an institution in our town … famous for Portuguese dishes,” as the artist Peter Hunt did in Peter Hunt’s Cape Cod Cookbook of that year. “People are always dropping by on their way back and forth for a bowl of kale soup or for linguiça or vinha d’alhos — famous Portuguese dishes which are served only in [Maline Costa’s] place. At night there is music, guitar and piano, and singing — and a good bar; as it should be in all Latin places. But I am there usually in the daytime for the Portuguese dishes … which I am proud to start this book with before they are forgotten.”
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Maline Costa was pictured on the cover of the Moors menu. [Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell 9:5 / Dowd Collection / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 2230]
Left: A Moors menu ornamented by Peter Hunt. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection] Right: A Moors menu with the phone number 240, placing it before the arrival of direct dialing in 1966. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
Inside the menu with the blue cover, the listings were obviously from the pre-Portuguese days in the Moors kitchen. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
Left: The back cover. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection] Right: A later advertisement, with the phone number 487-0840. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
Left: Front cover of a matchbook printed before direct dialing, with the phone number 840. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection] Right: The rear cover of a later matchbook. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
The presence of the five-percent “Old Age Tax” on this menu suggests that it was printed before 1966. The menu by this time featured numerous Portuguese specialties. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
This recipe for porco em pau came directly from Vivian Marshall Costa, according to Fred Pappalardo, who posted it. [Fred Pappalardo / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
The Moors had two openings in the summer of 1956. Left: The first was advertised in the Advocate on 24 May 1956. Right: The second, after a devastating fire, was trumpeted only a month later, on 28 June 1956.
Hunt did more than immortalize the cooking at the Moors. He transformed the walls and ceiling of the restaurant in 1954 with his bold, colorful, faux-primitif style of painting, and also provided a jolly whale for the menu cover. The “amusingly imaginative” décor was described by the Advocate: “The great whales which circle the ceiling are bringing the choicest viands; wines, cheeses, soups, and other Portuguese creations and concoctions from St. Michael’s [São Miguel] in the Azores over the bounding main to the Cape tip and to the Moors.”
Over the winter of 1955-1956, Costa undertook further improvements. When the Moors opened on 25 May for its 18th season, patrons “found that a new ‘Jug Room’ had replaced the more formal dining room of past seasons and that this carried out the informality of the main room with a decorative motif of old marine relics and barrel seats.”
As the first week of the season came to a close on Sunday, 27 May, Costa and his employees — undoubtedly well worn out — cleaned the restaurant and bar before closing the Moors around 1 a.m. Three hours later, witnesses in the area could see the terrifying glow of fire through the foggy darkness at land’s end. “When Patrolman Donald T. Gleason reached the place the interior, with its three rooms and kitchen, was a mass of flames,” the Advocate reported. Firefighters could bare approach the structure, the heat was so intense. “Coins in cigarette machines and [the] juke box had fused into molten masses,” the newspaper said, “and a large, old-fashion coffee grinder had partly melted away. A beautiful new, gleaming stainless-steel kitchen with much new equipment and a new piano were a mass of twisted, blackened, unrecognizable wreckage.”
“Coins in cigarette machines and the juke box had fused into molten masses.”
Faced with an estimated $75,000 in damages (about $780,000, adjusted for inflation), Costa vowed that the Moors would be reopened by the Fourth of July. He meant in a makeshift incarnation — “a small and temporary shed affair with which he could, at least, carry on the Moors’ name during the season and serve as a greeting place where old friends could be met,” the Advocate said. Nothing elaborate, in other words.
“However, there was one element on which Maline did not count or even reckon with,” the newspaper continued, in its account on 28 June 1956, “and that was his large number of friends, the real kind that are there in a pinch. The embers of that fire were still smoldering when offers of help began coming in from all quarters; from carpenters, builders, tradespeople, and from those who could only offer strong and willing backs.”
“Maline did not count or even reckon with … his large number of friends, the real kind that are there in a pinch.”
Phil Baiona (a/k/a Bayon), the flamboyant proprietor of Weathering Heights, an all-but-openly gay nightspot on Shank Painter Road, was among the first. One week after the fire, he held a “Maline and Naomi Costa Night” at Weathering Heights, offering free drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and entertainment to anyone who came bearing a seagoing relic: a whaling implement, an oar, a lobster pot buoy, a cork float, a lantern — anything of “real interest,” the Advocate said, “that can be used by Maline in decorating the new Moors ‘Shed’ to help make it, as far as possible, like the old, which had such a wealth of old gear that it was almost a museum.”
No less essentially, other restaurants around town lent china, flatware, and kitchen equipment and utensils. Donated supplies came in from wholesalers. Donated labor was so abundant that Costa was able to rebuild both the Jug and the Shed before Independence Day. “The place will stand as a shining example of determination and the tremendous power of applied friendship,” the Advocate said. “It will take a whole winter, at least, to really restore the Moors, but there has been built into it already a warming spirit that will never depart and that will make the rest of the task a joy.”
“There has been built into it already a warming spirit that will never depart.”
As reconstructed, the Moors was three venues in one: the Old Shed, the main dining room, which was open from 12 noon until 10:30 p.m. during the 1959 season; the Jug Room, “a charming cocktail nook,” open from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m.; and the Smuggler’s Cove, “for spirits and vittles,” also open from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m.
At the time, Mylan Costa was not yet immersed in the family business. He had graduated from Provincetown High School in 1952 — “To become a successful playboy,” was his stated ambition in the Long Pointer — and worked for Raytheon Corporation, the First National Bank of Cape Cod, and the Old Colony Tap, as a bartender. In 1965, he married Regina (Santos) Roderick, who brought six children to the union, including Kevin J. Roderick (1956-2001) and Ryan J. Roderick.
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The Moors, at left, five years after it was rebuilt. [Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell 10:81 / Dowd Collection / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 4624]
A 19th-century anchor recovered by F/V New England in 1959 and sold to the Moors. It remains on site. [Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell 10:81 / Dowd Collection / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 4624]
Photos by Bill Bard Associates. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
Photo by John D. Bell shows the entrance closer to the Beach Highway, and a steel mooring ball buoy that is still there. [Clive E. Driver Collection / Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum]
Photo by Bill Bard Associates shows the entrance on Bradford Street Extension. [Salvador R. Vasques III Collection / Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum]
The anchor and ball buoy grouping at the Beach Highway side of the Moors. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
Maline Costa opened the adjacent Moors Motel in 1960. It is now called AWOL. Photo by Bill Bard Associates. [Clive E. Driver Collection / Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum]
Around the Pollock Rip off Chatham in September 1959, the nylon netting of the dragger New England, Capt. George Valentine, was fouled by a large 19th-century anchor on the sea floor. The fishermen made their discovery roughly where Cap’n Bill, Capt. George Adams, had several days earlier found the anchor that is now the centerpiece of Lopes Square. Captain Valentine and his crew — Anthony Joseph, Chris Kelly, Jack Papetsas, Joseph Souza — managed to get their anchor on to the deck and steam home, despite the fact that it weighed at least a ton. (The captain estimated two tons.) They sold the extraordinary artifact to Costa, who had it placed prominently outside the Moors. Together with a large steel mooring ball buoy, the anchor still — um — anchors the intersection of Bradford Street Extension and Province Lands Road.
Far bigger things were to come the next year when the 32-room Moors Motel opened on an abutting property. Long, low, and faced in distinctive pecky cypress, the motel was “created, designed, and built by Maline Costa,” according to its opening-week advertisement in June 1960. “The rooms, which will sleep three if desired, have wall-to-wall carpeting and each has its own TV set. But if the guest prefers soft music the press of a button will provide it, as music is piped in to all units. The modern tiled bathrooms contain both shower and bathtub, and each unit is connected by telephone to the main switchboard in the motel office. Fronting the motel is a gay swimming pool with plenty of deck chairs, where guests can enjoy music with their exercise and relaxation.”
“If the guest prefers soft music the press of a button will provide it.”
Part of its new roof was torn off during Hurricane Donna in September 1960, blowing over to Hawthorne Bissell’s property at 21 Bradford Street Extension. When Bissell complained to Costa about the debris on his tennis courts, Costa shot back, “I thought you wanted them roofed over!” In August 1961, Gore Vidal was staying at the Moors Motel when he was met by the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, on an evening’s theatergoing expedition from the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port.²
Another milestone of 1960 was the arrival of Scooter, which Costa had raised from an owlet. Scooter perched behind the bar and in cartoon form — wearing a corsair hat with skull and crossbones — served as the symbol of the Moors for many years. He was also the namesake of a cocktail made from three kinds of rum, Cointreau, pineapple and orange juice, and grenadine, served in a hurricane glass and embellished with a red carnation. “One will probably last the meal,” Provincetown Magazine said. “Two will almost certainly ensure you end up under the table.” Others in the cast of animal characters were Papagui, a parrot who often greeted patrons, as Ruth Anne O’Donnell Hurd recalled, and two black German shepherds.
Here’s a surprise cameo: Carly Simon appeared at the Moors during the summer of 1963, having hitchhiked to Provincetown with her sister Lucy. They both played guitar and were billed as the Simon Sisters. “All the way at the end of the Cape was this club whose house entertainer had just been recruited to go to Vietnam,” Carly recalled in a reminiscence for CarlySimon.com. “Providence was fortunately in our corner that time around, and we got his job on the spot. So, with our five or six chords and our matching peasant blouses, capos, and Grecian-twined-up-the-leg sandals, we were ‘ready.’ We had hope, harmony and expectation.
“With our five or six chords and our matching peasant blouses, capos, and Grecian-twined-up-the-leg sandals, we were ‘ready.'”
“We were discovered that summer by a friend of Lucy’s who came to visit. His name was Charlie Close and he was the partner of Harold Leventhal, the manager of the Weavers and Pete Seeger. He arranged for us to sing on the television show Hootenanny.” Simon said the most delightful song in their repertoire was Lucy’s musical interpretation of the poem “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,” by Eugene Field. The Simon Sisters were soon signed to a contract with Kapp Records.
Smuggler’s Cove and the Jug Room were combined in the 1960s to create the Smugglers Jug Room lounge. It was open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Lunch and dinner were served in the Old Shed.
Several Moors dishes are still remembered fondly by those lucky enough to have dined on them. The Portuguese soup was recorded by Mary-Jo Avellar in the Provincetown Portuguese Cookbook (1997) as a “variation on the kale soup theme,” but without kale (cabbage instead) or linguiça (chouriço instead). It’s also made of brown stock, olive oil, canned tomatoes, canned red kidney beans, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, and cayenne pepper.
Equally memorable was the Brazilian porco em pau entrée — broiled cubes of marinated pork tenderloin. Fred Pappalardo posted Vivian Marshall Costa’s recipe.⁵ The marinade is made of olive oil, soy sauce, Spanish onions, coriander, cumin, ginger, salt, white pepper and Karo syrup. “It’s real and it tastes exactly as you remember it,” Pappalardo said.
Maline Costa turned the business over to Mylan and Regina in 1971.
Among the chefs were Kevin and Ryan Roderick — Regina’s sons and Mylan’s stepsons. Kevin was graduated from P.H.S. in 1974. After a few years in Florida and California, he returned to town in the later 1970s and worked at the Moors for more than 20 years. In 2017, Ryan and Vera Small opened the Meadow’s Take-Out restaurant, specializing in Portuguese cooking, in Steuben, Me.
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Left: Scooter the owl perched behind the bar at the Moors and — wearing a corsair hat — was also the restaurant’s emblem. Here he is on a refrigerator magnet. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection] Right: The owl, now in more civilian plumage, appeared in an ad in the 1989 Provincetown Chamber of Commerce guide.
A sign from Joel Grozier’s extensive collection. [Joel Grozier / Facebook / Provincetown Diaspora]
Advertisement illustrated by Canty. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
A promotional flyer illustrated by Canty. [Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell 9:11 / Dowd Collection / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 2236]
No drinking and dining spot was better situated than the Moors to appeal to the crowds returning to town on late summer afternoons from New Beach, now called Herring Cove. “Before there was Tea Dance, there was happy hour at the Moors,” Paul J. Asher-Best said.⁶ “Throngs crowded around the tables in the dining room, seated on rum barrels; Roger Kent at the piano, David LaChapelle working the crowd in this outfit or that; and everyone singing at the top of their lungs. The finale was always ‘O Canada,’ when all the Canadians in the crowd stood and sang, followed by ‘God Bless America,’ which blew the roof off the place!”
Young Manuela Bonnie Oppen Jordan could listen to her own roof being blown off. “Grew up at the top of Blueberry Hill hearing the wonderful old songs sung every day at cocktail hour after a day at the beach,” she said on Facebook. “Would sing along with Lillian Perry, my nanny during summertime, who knew every word.”
Though not as famous as Carly Simon, the singer and pianist Leonard P. “Lenny” Grandchamp (1944-2006) of West Warwick, R.I., was to become the musician most closely associated with the Moors. “Lenny Grandchamp lived at my in-laws’ cottages on Tremont Street and was a hairdresser in Rhode Island when he came here and started to entertain,” Rachel White wrote.⁷ He “was well received and eventually moved here permanently and continued his entertainment venues and only cut hair for friends.” Grandchamp’s partner, David Moorcroft, worked for a decade as a waiter and host at the Moors.
Grandchamp played the Smugglers Lounge from 1979 to 1999. The ramp leading into the lounge was right next to his piano, a situation of which he made the most when people entered and — especially — when they left to use the restroom. “We loved walking down the ‘gang plank’ into the bar and having Lenny greet us,” Cathy Goedtel LaBarge said. “And sitting on those darn barrel chairs!”
“Lenny would play a few bars of everyone’s favorite song as they walked down the plank,” Maghi Geary recalled.⁸ Dottie Elms said: “He always sang the Ave Maria for me. So talented and charming.”⁹ And George Libone asked, “How many of us were lucky enough to hear Lenny do all the characters in The Wizard of Oz?”¹⁰
Less lucky, but equally beguiled, Tim Downey described his own time on that ramp: “I remember watching Lenny and getting up to go to the restroom. Lenny stopped everything, looked at me. ‘We will all sit here and wait for you to come back.’ I was so embarrassed. Everyone was laughing, it was so funny. I still laugh remembering it.”¹¹
Mylan Costa sold the property in 1998 for $500,000 to Kimberly M. Medeiros, as trustee of the Moors Realty Trust. She and her husband, John Medeiros, ran the Moors for a couple of seasons, but the line had been drawn in the sand, and the property had become far too valuable for such commercial use. John E. Ciluzzi brokered a $1.9 million sale to the developer Robert Bradley of Marlborough, doing business as Race Point Residence L.L.C.
By June 2002, the Banner reported, rubble was all that was left of the Moors.
There are many fond reminiscences of the Moors to be found on the Facebook pages about Provincetown. But Laura Canterbury Parker may have expressed the most universal sentiment:¹²
“I wish I could have one more dinner there.”
The dining room in 1982, as pictured in Provincetown Magazine. [Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell 10:82 / Dowd Collection / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 4625]
Lenny Grandchamp’s name may have been misspelled, but everyone knew whom the Moors was advertising. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
Mylan and Regina Costa. [Courtesy of the Provincetown Banner]
The anchor and buoy were part of the identity of the Moors. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
Fortunately, they are both still there. [2011, Dunlap]
But in summer, they can be easy to miss. [2016, Dunlap]
5 Bradford Street Extension on the Town Map, showing property lines.
Also at this address
¹ I have taken the liberty of conflating Manuel N. Costa and Maline N. Costa. I welcome correction or clarification, but the “two” men have too much in common for me to believe they aren’t one and the same. Both Manuel Costa and Maline Costa were born in 1897. Both lived at 40 Pearl Street. Both were married first to Vivian Marshall Costa, then to Naomi Costa. And both were the fathers of Mylan Costa.
² Gore Vidal and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy were linked through Hugh D. Auchincloss Jr., who was a stepfather to each in turn.
³ There are authoritative sources that also spell this name as “Milan.”
⁴ Geoffrey Kane comment in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection.
⁵ Fred Pappalardo post in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection.
⁶ Paul J. Asher-Best comment in Provincetown Diaspora.
⁷ Rachel White comment in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection.
⁸ Maghi Geary comment in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection.
⁹ Dottie Elms comment in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection.
¹⁰ George Libone comment in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection.
¹¹ Tim Downey comment in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection.
¹² Laura Canterbury Parker comment in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection.
¶ Last updated on 3 March 2022