When Wade and Kristi Hageman decided to open Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria in Encinitas, they took a gamble and emerged as winners. “We put all our money into it,” Wade Hageman said. Fortunately for the couple, “we had a line coming out of the door from Day 1. The community has been nothing but really supportive.”
Hageman – a protégé of Wolfgang Puck — was looking to set up a restaurant that had the same food quality as the high-end restaurants he was accustomed to working, but one that was more affordable and comfortable for his family and friends. So he established a casual pizzeria that is often animated with chitchat and rock ‘n’ roll tunes, where people can enjoy cuisine worthy of fine dining.
With the menu, Hageman takes an organic, sustainable approach, and he uses as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. “People can taste the difference,” the chef said.
Guests can try for themselves through offerings that range from appetizers and pizzas, to soups and salads.
A popular starter is the Heirloom Wisconsin Black Seed Popcorn, seasoned with truffle salt and Parmigiano Reggiano. Another is the Albacore Tuna Crudo with Hass avocado, ruby grapefruit and lemon olive oil.
But the center of attention is the artisan pizzas, which are not the typical Italian Neopolitan pies: they’re more Americanized, with a browner, crispier crust. Made from dough that undergoes a three-day fermentation process, the pies bake next to burning white oak in a all- wood oven.
One particularly unique kind of pizza is Hageman’s Signature. The “sauce” is extra-virgin olive oil and lemon zest, and the trio of cheeses is composed of homemade mozzarella, ricotta and Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s finished off with red onion and fresh basil.
Meat lovers may appreciate My Father’s Pizza (named for Hageman’s dad) with tomato sauce, mozzarella, house-made fennel sausage, pepperoni and red onion. And there’s the Abe Froman Pizza (a tongue-in-cheek reference to the “sausage king of Chicago” in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) that features tomato sauce, mozzarella, fennel sausage, smoked garlic sausage and roasted Vidalia onions.
To pair with the fare, there are nine brews on tap: Julian Hard Cider, from the historic mining town in the mountains outside of San Diego; Pabst Blue Ribbon beer; and about 25 labels of boutique wines.
The award-winning Blue Ribbon Butterscotch Pudding awaits guests who have a sweet tooth. Served in a jar, it consists of creamy pudding with a thick layer of homemade caramel, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a dollop of vanilla whipped cream. A similar concoction exists for chocoholics, the Bittersweet Chocolate Budino.
The full menu is provided all day, and lunch specials are also available at midday.
In November, Blue Ribbon began presenting happy hour once (and sometimes twice) a day (except Sundays). No matter which of those times a customer comes in, they can find personal-sized pizzas and appetizers for $7, craft beers for $5, and glasses of red and white wines for $6.