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Exterior of Enzo in the West End of Provincetown.
Exterior of Enzo in the West End of Provincetown. (Necee Regis for the Boston Globe)
Checking in

A place to light in luxury in historic Provincetown

Email|Print| Text size + By Necee Regis
Globe Correspondent / October 16, 2005

PROVINCETOWN -- Thirty years ago, when legendary Provincetown chef and artist Howard Mitcham was cooking Haddock Amandine at Pepe's Wharf, he lived in a small apartment adjacent to the disco hot spot and leather bar, the A-House. The booming music and after-hours revelers didn't bother him one bit, as he had been deaf since age 16.

''Ah sleep like a baby," he would say in his Mississippi drawl.

I thought of Mitcham when staying at Enzo, a beautifully appointed inn on busy Commercial Street, at the cusp of the West End. In the off-season, the noise wasn't too bad; there were just a few boisterous patrons from the downstairs bar who lingered below our window, and when I popped my earplugs in, I slept like a baby, too. In summer, it may be problematic, depending on your noise-tolerance level, as the inn is only steps away from Spiritus, a pizza and ice cream joint that's ground zero for the apres-bar crowd.

That said, if you like the nightlife and being in the thick of things, Enzo can't be beat.

The inn, with its Italian restaurant of the same name and the downstairs Grotta Bar, is in a restored mansion, originally built in the 1700s and given a Victorian facelift, complete with turret, in the 1800s. Returning visitors may remember this spot as the home of Franco's Restaurant, the Painted Lady, the Cactus Garden, or most recently, Esther's. In May, it opened as Enzo.

This is the third establishment in town (all within a one-block radius) owned and operated by John Yingling, better known to everyone as Jingles, who has a knack for knowing what people want and happily providing it. The wildly successful Spiritus has been operating since the mid-1970s, and Bubula's by the Bay, a restaurant and bar, has been a hit since opening in its location in 1994.

We arrived on a flawless fall afternoon, the kind of day when the light on Cape Cod Bay makes you want to weep, and were shown to our room by Jennifer White, the guest house and bar manager.

Enzo's four rooms are similar in design, but each has a distinctive touch: One has a two-person Jacuzzi tub, another a multi-head marble shower, a third a fireplace. Our room, the Beach Forest, had a five-window alcove with leather lounge chairs that looked out on the lively street and the bay beyond.

The room was a study in restrained elegance, with a subdued color scheme of light yellows, pale browns, and off-whites, reminiscent of the surrounding dunes. The custom-made light wood furniture had clean lines with Art Deco overtones. The queen-size bed, flanked by wall sconces, was covered with a simple light brown spread and a pile of white pillows. The only color in the room -- in all the rooms, actually -- was a single brightly painted piece of artwork over the bed, done by a local artist. The overall feeling was calm and soothing, quite different from the energetic pace outside.

The bathroom was more like something you would see in Europe than in a New England bed-and-breakfast (sans bidet). Italian marble lined the floor and shower, and came partway up the walls. A pedestal sink, half-moon mirror, and fluffy white towels completed the picture. A bath in the deep tub was a relaxing treat.

Other amenities included a TV with VCR, a CD player, mini-fridge, two oversized umbrellas, a hair dryer, and telephone, all discreetly tucked out of sight.

At exactly 8 a.m., a continental breakfast was set buffet-style in the hallway outside the room. It included fresh-squeezed orange juice, coffee, homemade granola, yogurt, and gigantic muffins still warm from the oven.

On the main level, the restaurant Enzo offers classic Italian specialties like veal osso buco with polenta, and fresh linguine with littleneck clams. In warmer weather, tables are set on the patio at street side.

The Grotta Bar is a cozy and casual spot that seats about 30. It has a 46-inch plasma TV, jukebox, pinball machine, fireplace, and live entertainment at least one night a week. In colder months when the main restaurant closes (this year, that's tomorrow), there's a $10-and-under menu with spaghetti and meatballs, chicken pot pie, fish and corn chowder, and other regional and seasonal dishes.

Enzo is an easy walk to all the shops, boutiques, and art galleries that make Provincetown fun to visit. But it's nice to know that each room has its own parking space, so if you do leave, you are guaranteed a spot when you return. That alone is almost worth the price of a room.

There's a lot of talk these days about how Provincetown is changing, how it isn't what it used to be. It's true that the ghosts of Provincetown Past inhabit the gray-shingled streets, triggering memories like mine of Howard Mitcham. A frequent visitor can hardly stroll through town without remembering when another store used to be in this spot, or when so-and-so used to work in that place.

There's where we first went to drink, to steal a kiss, and the table where we last had lunch with a friend long gone. The nice thing about Provincetown is that it's also a place that keeps renewing itself, and Enzo is the new kid on the block where future memories can be made, in luxurious style.

Contact Necee Regis, a freelance writer in Boston, at neceeregis@yahoo.com.

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