A trip to Provincetown would be incomplete without devouring some of that quintessential Cape Cod delicacy: saltwater taffy.

A trip to Provincetown would be incomplete without devouring some of that quintessential Cape Cod delicacy: saltwater taffy.

Of all the stores in town, Cabot’s Candy owner Giovanni “John” Cicero has perhaps the best candy-making pedigree. Part of a family of Italian immigrants from the small northern Sicilian town of Castelbuono, he has been a Provincetown resident for 40 years. He took over Cabot’s from his father-in-law in 1969 and has presided over its rise to nationwide renown.

The shop is unique as it has managed to remain both family-run and be the last Cape confectioner to cook its own saltwater taffy. “A lot of people come to Provincetown and buy boxes for their friends and family because of the difference in quality — our product is famous all over America,” Cicero says.

After four decades, what has been Cicero’s secret to making mouth-watering candy for so long?

“Hard work, and keep it simple,” he says. “When we arrived, my wife and I, we didn’t have much money and had a baby to look after, but started our business anyway. I feel so sorry for young people as now you need hundred of thousands of dollars to start. I feel sorry for the dream — it’s true for the whole country.”

Despite the fragile economy and dismal summer weather thus far, business is good for the industrious Sicilian. His quaint, rustic, colonial-style store is consistently packed with tourists and locals alike, unable to resist dipping their hands into tempting barrels of candies. Cabot’s taffy is also sold wholesale to numerous supermarket chains and is found at most of the northeast’s airports.

Cabot’s has an added bonus: it is the only shop on the Cape where one can watch taffy being made. The antique red-and-white wrapping machine dates from 1940 and is still active, sitting prominently in the front window.

Taffy machinery is not cheap — one wrapping machine cost Cabot’s $300,000. “It was buy this, or buy a Ferrari,” said Cicero, unclear on whether he regretted his decision.

Employees cook up a rainbow of flavors and customers can fill their own bags with as many different types as they want — the price determined by weight — avoiding the common intra-family dispute over flavors.

Cicero is getting older himself and has no natural successor, but his passion for the job will keep the store going well into the future.

“Some people bring their kids here as they have great memories from when they were kids. I can’t close this store now even if I wanted to — it’s such an institution, people would be so upset,” he says.

Cape Cod Day


Small bites

1. Flavors: Peach, strawberry, blueberry, cranberry, raspberry, lemon lime, chocolate cranberry, pistachio, penuche, coconut, rocky road, chocolate peanut butter

2. Most popular: Molasses, peanut butter.

3. How it’s made: A house blend of sugars and fats are cooked in enormous “fire-mixer” copper kettles. The taffy is stretched, folded, rolled, cut and, finally, wrapped, into a bite-size dollops.

4. Unique: You can watch taffy being made

If you go

Cabot's Candy
276 Commercial St., Provincetown
508-487-3550; www.cabotscandy.com