Little did Frank Vasello know, as he crafted a wedding cake for Nathan Butera and his then-fiancé, that one day he and Nathan would be tying the knot together. “But we didn’t walk down the aisle!” he notes, laughing. “We had a pop-up wedding in a corner of the room at Tea Dance during Bear Week!”
Vasello owns Relish, the spectacularly successful to-go eatery on Commercial Street in the West End, specializing in pastries, breakfasts, and packed beach lunches. He initially bought the business in partnership with two other people. “The plan was to come down for the summer, and then go back to Boston, so I kept my apartment there,” he says. “There were some personal complications in the Provincetown living arrangements and I got kicked out of the place I was living. I lost the apartment in Boston, I smashed my car, and a week later somebody plowed into my car—again! It wasn’t an auspicious beginning, but it made me determined to make this work.”
And work it does. From Chef Mark Buckholtz’s amazing sweets (cookies, cakes, key lime tarts, cream puffs, French almond macarons, pecan walnut bars, lemon squares, and more) to Vasello’s signature gazpacho (it’s his personal favorite on the menu), fresh salad greens, and creative sandwiches, customers plan their vacations around Relish’s summer hours. And while Vasello has always offered special-occasion cakes and pastries year-round, together with Butera he’s now building up the holiday cookie assortments that Relish sends out all over the world.
Even though Butera had worked at Relish for a summer, it wasn’t until the two men were involved in shooting the film Offseason that they really connected. Before long they were spending hours at the Squealing Pig talking about art and philosophy—Butera has a master’s in film and TV, Vasello a bachelor’s in fine arts—not to mention the 10- and 12-hour days they were putting in working on the film. “Offseason was like going to school for all of us,” says Butera. “It was especially challenging because so many people were involved. Frank made it possible. I’d say, ‘I need such-and-such,’ and he’d figure out how to get it. When we were shooting it was clear that we really loved being together. He was funny, he was smart.”
Vasello asked Butera to pose naked with him for the now-famous “cupcake shoot” to advertise Relish, and “three days later, it was a fait accompli!” says Vasello.
Both of them see their long pre-romance friendship as an asset. It certainly enables them to work smoothly together. Butera is an agent at the Keller Williams Realty Company, but still spent much of the summer going in to Relish at 4:30 and helping prep. He does all of Relish’s graphics and is currently redesigning the boxes for the mail-order holiday cookies. They work together on catering events, designing outrageously gorgeous gingerbread houses, bringing beautiful pastries to residential and office events in Boston.
How do they spend their free time? “What free time?” asks Butera, who—possibly predictably—does most of the cooking at home. “Okay, here’s what we really enjoy,” says Vasello. “We have a nice dinner and then we sit and watch a movie and completely take it apart. We’re really hard critics!” They found time recently to create a music video for an internationally known performer (characterized by Butera as “challenging and chaotic”) and Vasello works on the 24-hour event produced by the Playwrights’ Lab at the Provincetown Theater. Together they have a trilogy of 30-minute horror films in the works, and both teach workshops throughout the offseason. So, right: what free time?
Relish will be open for the Halloween weekend with special spooky iced cookies and cupcakes, sandwiches, and turkey chili; Thanksgiving will be all about pies. And then there’s Christmas…
Order your Christmas cookies by November!
Watch ptownie.com for more as the time draws near! Christmas at Relish is a mail-order delight. This year, they’re making it more affordable than ever with a special (large) assorted box for $48 plus shipping in addition to the more expensive boxes for that—or those—special someone(s).
And what an assortment! The guys will choose from cookies that include ginger molasses, chocolate espresso chocolate sandwiches, eggnog sandwiches, iced minis, pecan sandies, cranberry biscotti, penguins and candy canes, springele, and cucidati—a spiced fig cookie. In other words, a garden of winter holiday delights!
They’re also happy to take special holiday orders to send out. The earlier you get it in, the better; they’re aiming to ship between December 7th and 10th.