Background photo by Greg Hinson

I know people have flown here for my tea-smoked duck (laughs). They’ve called from Boston before they leave in their little put-put, and they ask, “Can I have six ducks?” Really? “Really.” We smoke it on the premises each day with Chinese black tea, orange, cinnamon, and hickory chips. Another one of the favorites is our rack of lamb, and we do a gorgonzola-stuffed filet mignon. I could never take those three things off the menu.

Kathy, two of our friends, and I went to Todd English’s restaurant, and Julia Child was there with Nancy Jenkins, who was a food writer for the New York Times. I was being shy, so one of our friends tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Julia, I’d like you to meet my famous chef friend Donna Aliperti.” I was ready to die. She loved the fact that I was a young woman running a restaurant on my own. I told her that I was self-taught and learned at my father’s place. That’s when she said, “Don’t tell people that you’re self-taught, Donna. Say that you learn day by day. It sounds better.”

• • •

Kathy Cotter: Donna and I have been together for 21 years. We were married back in—I’m not sure, neither one of us can remember the year. Whatever year it was first legalized (laughs) . . . If either one of us had been with someone who wasn’t in the restaurant business, it wouldn’t have lasted. It’s long hours, hard work, sometimes you come home smelling like fish (laughs). I think an ordinary person would have a hard time dealing with that.

Donna: Some people don’t understand the bell curve of a seasonal business. They think that they can make $1,000 a day for 120 days and come out with $120,000. Uh-uh. You’re going to make $100 a day in the beginning, $100 at the end, and maybe $2,000 in the middle.

Kathy: Provincetown is a special place. That’s an overused term, but that’s the feeling you get. Everybody looks out for each other—gay, straight, it doesn’t matter. We’re friends from all walks of life.

Donna: People that come here fall into two groups. One says, “I’ll work here for a couple of summers and then I’m gone.” The other says, “This is it. I’m never leaving.”

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Jeff is the Managing Editor for Cape Cod Life Publications.

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