Blue Ribbon Pizzeria

>> Sunday, October 23, 2011

Date of Dining: 10/8/2011
Price: $8-14 appetizers, 13-16 pizzas
Location: 897 South Coast Highway 101 Suite F102, Encinitas, CA 92024

The Quick Bit:
+ Nice Brick Oven Pizzas
+ Use of high quality ingredients
Δ Front of House experience left a lot to be desired
Δ Space is small and cramped, more like a New York City style area

When I last reviewed Neopolitan pizza, I insinuated that the pizza was the best in San Diego, which triggered a lot of responses of other pizza places to try out. Unfortunately the timing of this was such that it was the dog days of tourist summer and even showing up to some of these recommended places at 8pm on a Thursday, I was told I would have to wait up to 90 minutes for a table. Instead of trying to fight through the crowds, I figured it more prudent to bide my time and wait for the tourists to move on.
Now that the summer season is over, I finally made it out to Blue Ribbon Pizza in Encinitas. Blue Ribbon is owned and operated by Wade Hageman, former head chef of Blanca. While at Blanca, Hageman received many accolades for this food and developed the ubiquitous Blanca favorite of truffle popcorn that is now appearing on menus at other restaurants.
In his new space, Hageman operates in an open pizza perch facing the rest of the space. He gets to see all his customers enjoy his food while the customers see him make pizzas for others. I did briefly get to talk to Chef Hageman as I walked back from the restroom and he mentioned that he is much happier in his new restaurant because he can feed the masses and see that they are happy to be enjoying his food.
When my party first arrived, it was still early in the evening so there were empty seats available. However, upon asking for a table, we were told the wait was at least 45 minutes. The next party also did not have reservations, but they were offered a seat at the bar and sat immediately. When we confronted the hostess, she was noncommital and said we would have to wait the 45 minutes. Luckily, Chef Hageman's wife came to the front of the house and when I asked her if we could be seated at the bar, she gladly accommodated. While I do not wish to speculate about the hostess's reasons, this was not the only problem we had with the front of house. Since we were seated at the bar, a friend was in the area and wanted to join us for dinner. When we informed the hostess, she acknowledged the request and said it was no problem. However, when the friend arrived, the hostess gave us a lot of trouble in having the friend seated with us.

Albacore tuna crudo with haas avocado, ruby grapefruit and lemon olive oil
This was a great dish and a great way to start off the meal. the acid from the citrus was a great way to open the palette while the albacore was very fresh and tasty. The fat of the avocado tied all the tastes together in a very Californian approach. This dish was much more like something I would have expected from Blanca rather than Blue Ribbon (although it was similarly priced to Blanca as well).
Fresh burrata with EVOO, sea salt and organic arugla
While I really wanted to like this dish, the burrata had a very washed out flavor. It distinctly lacked the milky goodness expected from a good burrata. The black pepper was also a little too aggressive and it caused one of my party to continuously sneeze for five minutes.

White Oak - mozzerella, ricotta, La Quercia proscuitto and arugla
This pretty much seemed to be a take on the brunoverde except with proscuitto added. Invariably, I ordered this to be able to make a direct comparison to to Bruno. The cheese on this pizza, both the mozzerella and ricotta lacked the richness of a great cheese. The arugla is meant to cut the richness of the cheese, but when there isn't really a lot of richness to cut, then the bitterness of the arugla comes through and the pizza wasn't balanced. However, the pizza was still in the same league as the brunoverde - it was just more of a backup player rather than a star.
Classic - tomato sauce, fresh mozerella, fennel sausage and crimini mushrooms
This was an enjoyable pizza. In fact, it compares to the campania I had at Bruno and was superior to it. The house made fennel sausage really carried through the flavors of this dish. I would have liked for it to also perhaps have had a pepperonata, but the pizza was enjoyable.

___ Pudding - sea salt caramel, house made whipped cream
I forgot exactly what type of pudding this was, but the star of the dish was the caramel. The sea salt and caramel when integrated with the rest of the dish really contrasted the pudding in flavor and texture. It was a bit too sweet for my taste, but overall an enjoyable dessert.

While Blue Ribbon Pizzeria delivered a good and compelling pizza, there were aspects to the experience that overshadowed the food. The main issue we had was with the hostess, who we couldn't seem to stop butting heads with - usually they seat you and you never see them again, but we had to keep interacting with her, which brought down the experience. Further, while the pizza was good, it wasn't ultimately better than Bruno's pizza. It says a lot that when you go to a pizza place for dinner and you think the appetizer was the best dish of the night....
However, Blue Ribbon Pizzeria is still a great restaurant, and one that I would recommend with the front of house disclaimer. Had the hostess been more friendly, I would be awarding Blue Ribbon Pizzeria a bit award, but there were just too many small nitpicks to give the restaurant an award.


Rodzilla October 23, 2011 at 10:23 PM  

Too bad about the hostess. It doesn't matter how good the food is, shitty service can ruin the entire experience.

I didn't see you mention the crust, did you have a preference between these two places?

James October 23, 2011 at 10:37 PM  

From where I was sitting at the bar, Chef Hageman saw that I was taking photos - and I was seeing a lot of the other pizzas he was putting out.

I would say he intentionally undercooked the pizzas I got while many of the other pizzas came out with a lot of burns on them...

That said, I still prefer Bruno

Post a Comment

About This Blog

gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
If any special treatment is provided to the blogger, full disclosure is presented at the beginning of the post.

  © Blogger template Webnolia by 2009

Back to TOP