>> Sunday, October 23, 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|
|Fresh burrata with EVOO, sea salt and organic arugla|
|White Oak - mozzerella, ricotta, La Quercia proscuitto and arugla|
|Classic - tomato sauce, fresh mozerella, fennel sausage and crimini mushrooms|
|___ Pudding - sea salt caramel, house made whipped cream|
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.