When I went to Italy on a class art trip at 16, I turned my nose up at our nightly four course dinners. I know, I know: poor little girl getting to travel abroad and try new cuisines. But I suppose my palate just wasn't refined enough then, what with all that hormonal brattiness clouding my tongue. Plus it all seemed so overwhelming: bread followed by salad followed by pasta followed by meat followed by dessert. Too much.
Older and wiser, I can now get behind the excess every now and again. At Fat OX, Scottsdale's latest upscale Italian eatery, I got to relive the jubilant surplus that is a multi-course Italian dinner. But this time, I liked it.
Officially open to the public today (Wednesday), Fat Ox is named for the Bue Grasso (literally translated as "fat ox") cattle, food and wine festival held annually in rural northwest Italy. Chef Matthew Carter (of Zinc Bistro, The Mission and The House Brasserie in Scottsdale) tackles the traditional, hearty fare you'd find in that region with a modern twist. This means house made mozzarella di bufala paired with charred radicchio and lamb ragu made with fresh, zesty green tomatoes rather than the traditional red; lemony Ceasar salad made table side; and a side dish of polenta topped with Parmesean foam, which sounds so pretentious but is the creamiest I've ever had so I'll give it a pass.
Many of the dishes are designed to be shared... no this isn't Buca di Beppo-style “family style” but rather normal, albeit American-sized portions passed around the table so everyone can have a few bites of this and a few of that. This came in handy for me during the meat course. I'm not a huge steak lover but I did admire how easily our (scarily sharp) knives cut through the choice cuts like butter. And my dining companions assured me the braised lamb, costata ribeye and skirt steak were all excellent. Plus, this was my excuse to help myself to more of the handmade pasta that came before the carne. The garganelli (egg-based pasta tubes) with truffle butter, speck ham and parmesan was my favorite. Because: butter.
The restaurant digs follow a similar theme: simple yet elegant. Tucked inside Lincoln Plaza on Scottsdale Road, the massive space (about 7,000 square-feet) boasts a huge bar with deep, heavy counters and a high-top area with floor-to-ceiling windows where the previous tenant's small parking lot patio had been. The dining area is dark and cavernous, with wood floors and dark blue seats. The private event area is awash in red – owner Brian Raab calls it his Ferrari room – and opens out onto a lovely patio space with olive trees reminiscent of the Tuscan countryside, and a two-way bar that allows bartenders to serve up double the orders of in-house barrel aged whiskey cocktails or fantastic wine curated by the in-house sommelier.
So, ready for some excess? Get thee to Fat OX. The bratty 16-year-old inside might not thank you, but your grown up taste buds sure will.
6316 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
Open nightly for dinner Sun through Thurs, 5–10 p.m., Fri and Sat, 5–11 p.m.
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