Where the locals eat

Meaghan Gouldrup, left, and Jerome Lloyd. —Gabrielle Mannino

When traveling in a new city, everyone wants to know where the locals eat. This is no easy task. Locals tend to be pretty pretentious about their eateries, for such an unpretentious bunch. What we’re really looking for is an old Mom ’n’ Pop, where we can grab a cheap sandwich and go, but not before catching up with a familiar face.

If you were to ask a grungy-looking construction worker where he likes to get his coffee in the morning, he might tell you, or in some cities, he might not. But here in West Tisbury, they’ll tell you, and they’ll probably tell you they go to Fella’s. Who knew those bearded, overalls-wearing guys were holding all the secrets?

Fella’s is a little corner joint located next to the West Tisbury Post Office on State Road. The business is owned by Fella and Jane Cecilio, who got their start in the catering business in 1984. Back then it was clambakes and barbecues, but small parties for friends quickly grew to parties of 500 or more, and parties for big names like Obama and Onassis.

Fella, an Island native, grew up working in Island restaurants, helping his mother with her pie business, and cooking on a commercial fishing boat. “I’ve been around food a long time,” he said. And it shows. His classic menu is complete with favorites like turkey or roast beef paninis, breakfast sandwiches, and chili, with specialties like tarragon chicken salad, and a different specialty pizza each day.

Inside, the staff is smiling and friendly. Winter’s slowness gives us a chance to get to know them. Jerome has worked at Fella’s for eight years, and Meaghan for 11. They’ve pretty much memorized the traffic in Fella’s by now, and a lot of the traffic has memorized them. The open kitchen allows interaction with the cooks, unlike most restaurants that keep them closed off, so Jerome has gotten to know the customers as well as Meaghan. Their regulars are loyal, stopping in multiple times a day. You have to wonder how much of it is about the food, and how much it is about the company. “The customers are so relaxed. West Tisbury is the most relaxed town, I think,” Jerome said. “It’s a good spot.”

Fella’s is right in the middle of three landscaping businesses, near several construction businesses, and is bounded by up-Island Cronig’s Market and the Post Office, consequently becoming a hot spot for anyone seeking a quick bite at a low price. High traffic of blue-collar workers gives the place a low-key vibe. Meaghan said the local crowd doesn’t fade in the summer, and even grows, since people are getting back to work.

In the mornings, breakfast sandwiches are what people want. Served from 7 to 11 am, they range from $3.75 to $6.50. The Southwestern Chicken Sandwich and Turkey Sandwich are popular lunch choices ($9), and for dinner, the pizza. Each day they serve cheese and pepperoni, as well as a special flavor every day. The goat cheese, spinach, and tomato special ($3.50) was served up warm from the oven on a paper plate.

One of the key ingredients to a good local joint is cost, since locals who eat out are not usually looking to spend as much as a vacationer might. Fella and Jane said they do their best to use local ingredients, especially in the summer, but try to be conscious about how sourcing will affect their prices. “We have to consider our year-round people,” Jane said. “We’ve got guys coming three times a day.”

Fella’s Takeout in West Tisbury is open year-round, Monday through Thursday 7 am to 4 pm, Friday 7 am to 8 pm, Saturday from 8 am to 3 pm (winter hours). In the summer, the couple also manage the seasonal Fella’s on Union on Union Street in Vineyard Haven, and will relaunch their time-honored catering business. Jane says they will return to their roots, with more focus on clambakes and barbecues this upcoming season. To book, call Jane at 508-693-1572.

This article by Lily Cowper originally appeared on mvtimes.com.