Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria: Way More than Just a Pizza Place

Eating Up And Down 101 in Encinitas #13

We’re kicking off Andy’s birthday month with the next restaurant on our list in Encinitas, Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria in the Encinitas Lumberyard. We are excited to try their woodfired pizza, but one look at the menu online reveals that they are more than mere pizza.

It’s fun to do a little research before our visits. It helps us understand how our hosts want us to experience their establishment. What a pleasant surprise to learn that chef-owner Wade Hageman is also the owner of one of our favorite neighborhood walk-to spots, The Craftsman Tavern. We love the food, cocktails, and energy there. Chef Wade’s resume includes Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. No wonder the food is so good!

The Clichés are True

As we get older (Andy is 60 now!), we like getting places early. So we arrive at about 4 pm on a Friday, Happy Hour, and get a seat on their covered, heated patio. This is nice for enjoying the sunset. Our timing is spot-on, because this place begins to fill up right at 5 pm.

Diners inside enjoy a cozy space with the woodfire pizza oven in view and a bar with a wide variety of beer and wine.

Blue Ribbon serves wine in stemless glasses.

Our first impression is that these guys really care about their food and wine! Peter is our server, eager to give us great customer service and make wine recommendations. He’s really hopping tonight, but makes sure we get plenty of attention.

We order wine right away! We are in a red wine mood tonight. The menu is full of intriguing choices, but sadly they’re out of the Barbera.

Peter suggests the Tempranillo, mentioning that the notes of dried fig will pair nicely with the salad we will be sharing. Andy starts with a full-bodied Pinot Noir from France. Nothing like sipping exquisite wine at sunset!

The Plan

We have a plan in mind for the evening. I get to order our appetizers, Andy is in charge of picking our pizza.

This is no easy task. Everything looks tasty! My choices have a fall vibe. We’ll open with organic butternut squash soup topped with chili oil and fresh chives. I have been obsessed this season with butternut squash soup, trying it everywhere we go, and of course making my own.

Blue Ribbon’s offering is a beautiful presentation, drizzled with bright red chili oil and vibrant green fresh chives. It is hot, velvety and flavorful. This is definitely my favorite butternut soup I have had this fall! We down every drop.

I also order the bosc pear and prosciutto salad. What arrives on the table is a dream on a plate: thin-sliced bosc pears and prosciutto on a heaping bed of arugula, creamy fresh goat cheese, and toasted hazelnuts, drizzled with a sherry vinaigrette. I am surprised this salad is only $14.99! It’s bursting with all our favorite fall flavors. And, like the soup, nothing is left.

Done with soup and salad. Now about that pizza….

Now it’s Andy’s turn to shine! He gets to select our pizza. There is a wide variety of gourmet pies to choose from, classic old school, Hawaiian, and the garlicky “Stinking Rose,” to name a few.

But don’t be shy about off-roading and creating your own experience. Andy does a mashup of the “Inferno” (tomato sauce, mozzarella, Calabrian chili, jalapeno) and “My Father’s Pizza” (tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, Italian sausage, pepperoni, red onion). Great choice!

Our woodfired pizza has a nice, crispy crust and gooey, colorful toppings in the middle.

Our second round of wine: Primativo for Andy and a Bordeaux for me complement the pizza perfectly.

There’s a nip in the air, but the heaters keep us cozy enough to linger over the wine as the sun sets. I can’t believe we also finished the whole pizza!

The biggest intersection in our town on our drive home in Encinitas.