Ahwatukee Foothills resident Joe Busone was so well-liked as general manager of Buca DiBeppo in Chandler that nearly his entire staff followed him when he was fired last September.
Although Busone said the restaurant's guest satisfaction was No. 1 in the division and No. 4 in the country, it was determined in his mid-year review that he did not meet the criteria needed to stay with the company.
Several months and several resumes later, Busone still hadn't gotten any restaurants to respond to give him an interview.
"My thought was I'll never work in the restaurant business again because I couldn't get an interview. But this is my passion this is what I love to do I've done this since I was 13 years old," Busone said.
It was the Buca staff that pushed him to open his own restaurant at 7131 W. Ray Road in Chandler, which he appropriately named Fired Up Grill.
"I couldn't believe I got fired to begin with. I said, ‘I'm just going to get fired up, this is crazy!'" Busone said. "Then I thought, ‘What a great name for a restaurant!'"
The staff even offered to work for nothing until the restaurant was up and running. Busone said he's extremely grateful for their loyalty, and said he earns that loyalty by treating them fairly.
"If you go out of your way for your staff, they'll go out of their way for your guests," Busone said. "I have to take care of 15 people so 500 people who come through the door a week are taken care of, instead of worrying about the 500 people myself."
Fired Up Grill's menu has several unique items on it, including jalapeno crab cakes served with chipotle mayo, Southwestern shrimp and scallops ceviche, and Busone's mother's home-made cavatelli with rapini and beans.
Busone said the salmon burger, served on a kaiser roll with spinach red onion and lemon-cilantro mayo, is light and popular. For dessert he invented a chocolate ravioli made with chocolate pasta dough, stuffed with sweet ricotta, topped with pureed raspberry and white chocolate shavings.
"So if you look at this it looks like a dish of pasta with red sauce and cheese," Busone said. "We put a mint on it and the mint looks like basil."
One of the most unique features of the restaurant, however, is its "Tabletop Grill," in which guests seated on the patio can order 2-ounce portions of chicken, steak, shrimp and ahi tuna for $2 and peppers, asparagus, zucchini and pineapple for $1.50 and grill their own food right at the table.
Fired Up Grill offers a happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Deals include $3 off appetizers, $2 off wine and alcoholic beverages and $1.50 off any beer. There's also a reverse happy hour Monday through Sunday from 10 p.m. to close.
Busone said he does things more because he wants to be satisfied with being creative and just "wowing" people, and that that's more satisfying than having the busiest week.
He's even been known to whip up something special if a customer doesn't see something they want on the menu.
"You'll want for nothing you'll get whatever you want," Busone said.
For more information, call Fired Up Grill at (480) 940-4040.