Industry veteran Dom Ruggiero is celebrated throughout the Valley for his creations at Hush Public House and Vanilla Gorilla Tap Room in North Scottsdale.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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 Will4912 East Shea Boulevard, #108, Scottsdale