NORTH TRURO — Terra Luna’s Tony Pasquale is calling it a wrap. After 30 years of “neo-pagan” cuisine, polenta bread pudding, monthly live music, and rustic feng shui, the North Truro restaurant closed its doors for the final time on Oct. 9 after a goodbye party “where we cooked until the food ran out,” Pasquale said.
The restaurant’s owner said that the meaning of this moment probably won’t fully sink in until spring, when he typically sweeps down the winter’s dust in preparation for the season ahead. But there is still a lot to do. He has to clear out the building — “Hopefully, I won’t find any dead bodies,” he said. He’s focused on returning the art that peppers the wood walls to local artists and finding a home for the antique tchotchkes that dot the restaurant’s shelves.
Pasquale said many goodbyes during the summer, with “a lot of people coming in for their last suppers.” If the restaurant has developed a “good cult following,” he said, it is also something to “set free.”
Terra Luna began before Tony Pasquale entered the picture. Local chef Raina Stefani stepped into Adrian’s Restaurant at 104 Shore Road for dinner in 1992. “I was so taken with that space,” Stefani said, that when Adrian Cyr left the building, she called the property’s owner, Fred Sateriale, and told him, “I’m begging you to rent me the space.” On a $100 handshake, Sateriale held it for her, and in 1993, she opened Terra Luna.
Pasquale bought the restaurant from Stefani in 2011 after working many years as her sous-chef. But much of the menu carried over, Pasquale said: “The guy who comes here every August wants his Sicilian littlenecks and rightly so.” The house favorite, polenta bread pudding, was a recipe concocted by Stefani’s mom, Carla. But the grilled “galvanized” pork chops, which are marinated for three days, are Pasquale’s own.
Terra Luna has been a stable outpost in an ever-changing Outer Cape landscape. “It was always a small mom-and-pop restaurant,” Pasquale said. “That’s why we didn’t want to change too much.”
Pasquale was relieved that when Sateriale sold the property, including 19 surrounding Prince of Whales cottages and buildings, to the Lexvest Group in 2021, a lot stayed the same. “They let us continue to do our own thing,” he said.
And when Lexvest converted the cottages to short-term Airbnb rentals after they served many years as summer housing for workers, many from Jamaica, Pasquale did have customers streaming in from the cottages.
Still, the changes caught up to Terra Luna. Last year, Pasquale lost three long-time employees when they lost their housing. And rising expenses, including a potential rent increase, made continuing the restaurant seem untenable.
“I began doing a lot more for a lot less,” Pasquale said. “It’s getting harder to find people to work on the Outer Cape. All summer there have been tons of help wanted signs all over.”
Pasquale tried raising prices to cover his increasing expenses, but, he said, “At some point, what is the cutoff for a pork chop?”
Before the property became a restaurant, it served for decades as a common kitchen for those staying in the Prince of Whales cottages, which were rented out in the summer, said Stefani. “For 100 years, it has been a gathering space of energy and community and sharing of ideas,” she said.
She’s still an optimist about its legacy. “It didn’t start, and it doesn’t end, with Terra Luna,” Stefani said. “The space is bigger than any of us.”
Stefani remembers an evening when an employee pranced around the restaurant’s floor in a blue velvet dress playing the violin. That night, a bride and groom came through the door, still clad in their wedding garb. “They had ditched their own wedding party to come to Terra Luna to steal away together on the night I had this wandering minstrel playing her violin,” Stefani said.
Memories abound for Pasquale, too. He has kept a heavy leatherbound notebook behind the bar where he writes down quotes from customers and workers. After skimming the book, he mischievously told a reporter that none were for publication.
“I pull it out every now and again and have a good laugh,” he said.
“Tony served many wonderful meals and brought families and friends together in a special location for many years,” said Lexvest president Eric Shapiro. He told the Independent that the company is looking for a new chef for the 2024 season.
“I am going to be hopeful on this one,” Stefani said. “It seems like whoever is in that space does well. It’s destiny.”
As for Pasquale, he said he will keep the name Terra Luna as he turns to offering pop-ups and catering in the coming years.
He will also continue DJing at WOMR every Wednesday morning with his set, the Squid Jigger’s Blend, which he described as “garage-o-phonic-circa-delic-primitive-chunka-chunka-jingle-jangle-power-pop-proto-punk.”
And if push comes to shove, Pasquale said, “I’ll just sell hot dogs and lobster rolls out of a cart on the beach.”