First Taste

First Taste: This Acclaimed Valley Chef's New Restaurant is Another Winner

The Beef Bolognese and Lobster Roll from Fire at Will.
The Beef Bolognese and Lobster Roll from Fire at Will. Natasha Yee
When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

Industry veteran Dom Ruggiero is celebrated throughout the Valley for his creations at Hush Public House and Vanilla Gorilla Tap Room in North Scottsdale.

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Owner and chef Dom Ruggiero.
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
New Times named Hush, which opened in 2019, the "Best Neighborhood Restaurant" in 2021. The restaurant became popular for its laid-back approach to dishes like Italian beef with braised oxtail, chicken liver pâté, and date cake, "already stone-cold Valley classics just a few years in," according to the 2021 blurb.

So when Ruggiero opened his third concept on November 11, naturally, we had to give Fire at Will a taste.

Though it opened on Veteran's Day, a date close to Ruggiero's heart as a former member of the Marine Corps, he didn't plan things that way, he said.

"It's actually a cool day numerically, being November 11, 2022, and Veteran's Day, of course. A lot of it has to do with timing, though. It wasn't planned by any means, but everything with staffing and the build out just fell into place," Ruggiero told the New Times prior to the opening.

The name of the restaurant, however, is a tribute to Ruggiero's past as a Marine. "Fire at will" is a military command. In the culinary industry, the phrase signifies that a dish should be sent to a table as it's ready. And that's exactly how each dish landed during our visit.

The restaurant is difficult to find at first, nestled inside a plaza at the northeast corner of Tatum and Shea Boulevards, among neighbors Original ChopShop, Cartel Roasting Co., and Torchy's Tacos. Look for a sign spelling out the name in white cursive letters.

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Fire at Will hails from a plaza at Tatum and Shea Boulevards.
Natasha Yee
A step through double glass doors will transport you entirely out of Scottsdale. A collection of black and white photographs greet diners as they enter. One depicts a group of nuns huddled together to light their cigarettes while another features a group of picketers holding signs that say "We want beer 1933." The pictures are a fitting addition to the slightly rebellious restaurant.

The dining room is dark and moody with an exposed brick wall opposing a large bar. Globe pendants protrude from the ceiling and the entire space is centered by greenery hanging over a communal table, providing a touch of color in the otherwise neutral restaurant.

It feels masculine yet warm, like somewhere you might stumble into on the streets of Manhattan. A black half booth near the red subway-tiled open kitchen serves as a nice spot to peruse the menu while sipping on a smooth Soter Vineyards Planet Oregon pinot noir and a Julio by the Bay, a mezcal drink with plum brandy that tastes like a smokey margarita.

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Fire at Will is dark and moody, the perfect date night spot.
Natasha Yee
On a recent visit, our server ran through a list of her favorite small plates: Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Lamb Tartare, and Macaroni au Gratin, the latter of which is a favorite at Hush. We ordered the macaroni and a baby kale salad and watched the chefs work their magic.

The salad was made up of tender green leaves tossed in Caesar dressing and topped with Parmesan cheese, smashed croutons, and a cured egg yolk. Salty, savory, and creamy, none of it went to waste.

The Macaroni au Gratin arrived in a cast iron skillet, beckoning to be devoured. A blend of five cheeses including Gouda, Manchego, Gruyere, Parmesan, and American, made up the comforting and velvety dish. It felt like a secret family recipe, something sophisticated enough to wow a group of friends but simple enough that a 5-year-old would happily eat it.

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The Macaroni Au Gratin and Baby Kale were a welcome start to the evening.
Natasha Yee
On a Tuesday night, the new restaurant was bustling with conversation and giggles, glasses clinking, and forks grazing quickly emptying plates. It was time for "bigger plates," as the menu describes them. The beef bolognese and lobster roll caught our eyes and the server nodded at the selections enthusiastically, approving of the choices among other standout dishes like Whole Grilled Branzino and Salt Spring Mussels.

Both dishes arrived looking like Instagram-worthy specimens. The bolognese is made with rigatoni from local Sonoran Pasta Co. cooked al dente in an earthy red sauce with plenty of beef and some diced carrots. A hearty winter dish, we will definitely come back for this one. The lobster roll was almost too beautiful to chow down. Sitting in the middle of a plate next to a charred half lemon, the buttered and grilled toast burst with lobster, aioli, and celery and was topped with delicate chives. But our appetites overruled our eyes, and it was cut in half and promptly consumed.

Though dessert beckoned — a choice between chocolate tiramisu, Thai Tea Creme Brulee, and a gelato sundae — it would have to wait for another night. We were stuffed. Other tables had cleared out by then, but the staff, attentive and polite, never rushed a thing.

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The black and white photographs at the entrance set the tone.
Natasha Yee
With its inventive yet down-home takes on culinary classics, Fire at Will is another winner for Dom Ruggiero. Head over for a date night decked out in your best or casually cozy up to the bar to dive into the Mediterranean-inspired menu.

"I feel like this neighborhood was lacking anything cool or good, and I'm hoping that Fire at Will can provide that," Ruggiero said. "We're taking reservations but they're not necessary at all. Come by anytime; we have plenty of seating."

Fire at Will

4912 East Shea Boulevard, #108, Scottsdale
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Natasha Yee is a dining reporter who loves to explore the Valley’s culinary gems. She has covered cannabis for the New Times, politics for Rolling Stone, and health and border issues for Cronkite News in conjunction with Arizona PBS, where she was one of the voices of the podcast CN2Go.
Contact: Natasha Yee

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