New Oak Harbor eatery to embody rustic, island feel

Every scrap of metal and piece of wood has a story.

Jason Tritt

Every scrap of metal and piece of wood has a story.

Jason Tritt wanted the atmosphere in his new Italian restaurant to embody Whidbey Island.

He also wanted it to have an open, community, almost- homey feel, as if guests were sitting down to a meal with family and friends.

Tritt is hoping his new restaurant will encompass all of that when its sturdy wooden doors open in December on Pioneer Way in historic downtown Oak Harbor.

He and business partner Mercedes Fulwiler are calling the restaurant Rustica, and it only takes a peek inside to understand why.

Oak Harbor craftsman Brandon Davis was hired to reconstruct the interior and put in his rustic touches to transform the building formerly occupied by Angelo’s Cafe.

He went beyond Tritt’s expectations.

Using salvaged wood, metal and pipes collected on and near the premise and throughout the island, Davis repurposed the materials, turning them into doors, wall panels, tabletops, table legs and other furniture.

Not only did that method save money, it gave the restaurant the rustic look Tritt desired to provide fodder for guest conversations.

“Ninety-five percent of everything in here is repurposed and salvaged,” Tritt said. “The majority of the project is green down to the LED lighting.”

The most impressive feature is the tabletop for the bar.

It is a 24-foot length of wood that came from salvaged, old-growth timber on the south end of the island.

Davis also built the restaurant tables, using a mosaic of wood pieces fitted together like a puzzle on the tops covered by a gloss finish.

Reclaimed material such as metal roofing and doors came from all around Oak Harbor, including Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Even old, wooden planters being discarded across the street were rescued by Davis and put to use.

“It’s very, very hip right now to repurpose and re-use,” Tritt said, pointing to a trend popular in metropolitan areas up and down the West Coast. “Restaurants and pubs in Seattle are taking advantage of the history they have.”

Tritt believes Rustica will encompass the atmosphere he desired — an open concept in an intimate setting with no separation between bar and restaurant.

A small stage was built in the corner for live music. A waiting area in the front will include theater seats that once were used in the movie theater that closed down on Pioneer Way.

Tritt likes to refer to Rustica as a “cafe, wine bar and kitchen” that will feature a lunch and dinner menu of authentic Italian and Mediterranean dishes.

“It will be very much farm-to-table–style food, very fresh, made in house,” Tritt said.

Tritt recruited two fellow Oak Harbor High School products to run the kitchen — Seth McKee, the chef, and Laura McWilliams, who will split roles a sous chef and pastry chef.

McKee has worked as a chef at resort-style restaurants in three states, most recently at the Cave B Estate Winery and Resort near Quincy.

McWilliams spent the past two years at Doe Bay Resort on Orcas Island.

Tritt is targeting the first week of December as the opening date and is planning to start with a dinner menu before adding lunch.

Although he also owns Flyers Restaurant and Brewery across town, Tritt said Rustica otherwise has no connection to that eatery.

“What we’re doing is a completely different concept — small, very intimate,” he said.

“Flyers is a pub. This is a wine bar style.”


More in Business

Heaping slices of awesome

Whidbey Pies Cafe named as best pie in Washington

Nonprofit opens doors at new, larger location

Garage of Blessings now has more space than it ever has before,… Continue reading

Oak Harbor High School grad starts career at bank

Peoples Bank announced the appointment of JAHLEEL VESTER as real estate loan… Continue reading

County clarifies winery, brewery, distillery code

After decades without clear definitions in its code, Island County has adopted… Continue reading

Town makes changes to 2 percent funds process

The Town of Coupeville voted Tuesday to make a few minor changes… Continue reading

SaviBank breaks ground for branch on Midway

SaviBank has broken ground for a new branch on Midway Boulevard in… Continue reading

Island Transit honors maintenance team

Island Transit is recognizing its maintenance team with a Wall of Fame… Continue reading

Whidbey solar business warns against policy change

Whidbey Islanders like to go green. Whidbey has more solar energy installations… Continue reading

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County gets new director

Jennifer Paddock had dedicated her career to helping children, which made her… Continue reading

Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns, Police Chief Kevin Dresker, and deputy fire chief Mike Buxton addressed the audience’s concerns. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Homeless meeting focuses on health, safety issues

Business owners and community members voiced concerns to city officials about trespassing,… Continue reading

Oak Harbor Best Western wins brand award

Best Western Plus in Oak Harbor received the Best Western Hotels &… Continue reading