AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Monday, August 18, 2014
Norton Will Miss Downtown Cafe
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, April 18, 2014
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
“Down-town, things will
be great when you're
Down-town, no finer place for sure
Down-town, everything's waiting for you
-From the song “Downtown” sung by Petula Clark
In Norton, it is the end of yet another era. Downtown Pizza, that seemingly indestructible
Norton institution on Route 123, has closed its doors for good. Here’s to you, old friend. We had a lot of good times together.
If you aren’t familiar with Downtown, it is located right across
the street from the entrance to Camp Finberg, nestled in next to the MGA Links
golf course (the old Wading River Par 3 for you area townies like me). It has stood there since at least the early
1970’s as one of Norton’s most well-know places to grab a bite and a beer – not
necessarily in that order.
A beautiful piece of architecture it is not. Although it was spruced up over the years by
different owners, it was never going to look pretty. The inside wasn’t a lot better, though low
lighting helped. But Downtown has always
been a bit like the community surrounding it – you tended to like it not for
how it looked, but rather for how it made you feel.
I first remember Downtown in the 70’s, when it was owned by a
gentleman named Phil (my apologies for not remembering his last name). It was pretty much a bar in those days, and
that was how Phil ran it. But aside from
serving brews, Downtown knew how to make a pizza better than almost anyone.
Oh, those pizzas. They
were thin, they were hot, and they were greasy.
I’m talking about the running-down-your-arm-as-you-ate-it kind of
greasy. The kind that was no doubt bad
for you, but a treat and a wonder for your taste buds.
Eventually the establishment was sold to the McSweeney family,
and they greatly improved both the business and the atmosphere. It became a true family operation, with
relatives everywhere you turned. It was
that version of Downtown that made the biggest impression on this lifelong
I spent countless hours enjoying myself in that small place
where I had my own personalized mug hanging over the bar. When I was a Norton selectman in the 1980’s,
Downtown was our place to go after Thursday night meetings. And believe me, after those meetings, you
really needed a drink.
We would relax, joke, eat, drink, and just get to know each
other better. We had our own regular
Thursday night table, and would often meet constituents we didn’t know. I probably dropped more money into the Ms
PacMan machine than I spent on my share of the bill each night, but that was
When Downtown started delivery service, my house became a
regular stop for decades. My kids loved
the pizza almost as much as my wife hated cooking. When given an assignment in the first grade
to record the recipe for his favorite thing Mom made for dinner, my youngest
son wrote: “Call Downtown. Order the pizza. When the man comes, pay him. Eat the pizza. Throw away the box.”
My joke with then-owner Roy McSweeney was that if I broke into
one of his delivery trucks and hot-wired the ignition, it would automatically
drive to my house.
Eventually Downtown was sold again, once more to a fine local
family. After many years of operation
the DeVincent’s have decided to close the business. I certainly don’t blame them, but it is a sad
time for the town.
Downtown was never a fine dining place, and it was never quite
Cheers either. But it was a place you
could bring your family for a relatively inexpensive dinner, then go back the
next night with your buddies. It was
relaxed. It was simple. It was Norton.
There are still great places in town. And Downtown had certainly seen better
days. But as those doors closed for the
last time, they sealed in a lot of good times and warm memories. I spent many hours there with great people
who are no longer with us. So many
wonderful recollections of them were formed in that old building.
Thanks Downtown. A large
with extra cheese will never taste as good again.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
longtime local official. He can be
emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at