EASTHAM — With its white wooden shingles, lobster traps, and sunny yellow awnings, the Lobster Shanty on Route 6 evokes the Cape Cod that Patti Page sang about in her 1957 classic “Old Cape Cod.” The decor, however, is from the 1980s.
That’s when the late Daniel Delgizzi, an off-Cape real estate investor, bought the property. He had, since the late 1950s, been buying up property on the Cape and moving old homes to his newly acquired lots.
The Shanty’s past came into view during an investigation of Delgizzi’s legacy. Today his properties, managed by his son David of Weston, mainly supply substandard housing for many in the region’s workforce.
In 2020, the Independent reported the Delgizzis owned nearly 100 units of rundown housing on Cape Cod — including some 60 units in Truro and 10 in Eastham, though two were taken by the town the following year because of unpaid tax bills dating as far back as 2014.
David Delgizzi could not be reached for comment.
But before the Delgizzis came along, the place really was an old Cape Cod eatery. Charles and Norma Chase opened the Hillside Restaurant in 1947, according to their daughter, Nancy Rutledge of Florida.
Charles, who was known as Buddy, was a born entrepreneur. He started out selling fruit, then eggs, and, later, chicken pies at a stand on nearby land owned by his parents, Leslie and Mabel Chase, according to Rutledge. The Chases’ 1820 farmhouse stood at 40 Salt Pond Road.
Despite rumors that a colonial-era tavern for pirates and mooncussers once stood at this spot, it appears that Buddy Chase was the first to operate a business here, said Rutledge. “He would sell anything,” said Rutledge. “He wanted to sell Cape Cod air in a can. He talked about that a lot.”
Out of the fruit and egg stand, Buddy built the Hillside into the kind of diner that had hamburgers, ice cream, and cake displayed under a glass dome on the counter, said Marca Daley, the archivist for the Eastham Historical Society and Rutledge’s childhood friend.
When the Cape Cod National Seashore was set to level the hill by the highway around 1961 to build the visitor center across Route 6, Buddy bought a house with a gambrel roof that stood on the fated hill and had it moved across the highway to expand his business.
He eventually opened a souvenir shop along with a motel with seven units and one apartment — and then a bike rental business, which still exists today. It is now called the Little Capistrano Bike Shop and is run by his daughter, Melissa Ayala.
Buddy created the small motel, now occupied by Delgizzi’s restaurant staff, from a two-story heated chicken coop that he had built years earlier as part of a 4-H project, Rutledge said.
The Hillside took on a new dimension when Eastham, the last dry town on Cape Cod, began to allow alcohol sales in 1961. This proved very profitable at first.
Rutledge said she learned to push alcohol long before she could legally drink it, to improve the business profits and her own tips. She said her parents also gave her a stool and taught her to operate the cash register because they “only wanted family touching the till.”
Mark Herman, a volunteer at the historical society, said the Hillside was quite a watering hole in the 1970s, for better and for worse. One man went to drink there after work with such regularity, Herman said, that his wife would deliver his dinner to the bar.
Buddy’s hard drinking with his friends at the Hillside caught up with him, Rutledge said. He stopped paying taxes on the Hillside, and it was eventually taken by the government, Ayala said. When he died at 60 in 1988, he left two former wives, five children, and a girlfriend. His wives, Norma and Kathy, became close friends and traveled together for years. “They had a lot in common,” Ayala said.
The Chase farmhouse originally owned by Mabel and Leslie Chase at 40 Salt Pond Road is now owned by Ayala and her husband, Mark. Both their house and the Delgizzis’ restaurant are in Eastham’s Old Town Centre National Register District, which comprises about 40 acres around Salt Pond and Locust roads, according to the U.S. Dept. of the Interior. The former town hall, now a private home, and former Eastham Grammar School, now a museum, are also in that area.