When Wade Hageman, former executive chef of Solana Beach’s sophisticated contemporary Blanca, and wife Kristi opened an artisan wood-fired pizza restaurant in Encinitas in June 2010, they named it for the best: Blue Ribbon Pizzeria. After all, when athletes compete, they don't go for the red or yellow, and the Hagemans are not known for settling.
Hageman discovered the merits of a career in the culinary arts as a precocious youngster and quickly climbed the proverbial food chain, becoming a protégé of the famed Michael Mina. Towards the end of his tenure at Blanca, he recognized how much he missed the hands-on cooking of his childhood and formative years: time spent in the kitchen with his mom, preparing meals for the entire family.
In today’s restaurants, executive chefs are often asked not to create, but to manage a crew of line cooks and maybe a sous chef. So, when he departed from the stifling trends evoked by the culture of another's kitchen, he turned to his own. He's back to his roots at Blue Ribbon.
Blue Ribbon’s pies are Chef Hageman’s platform for locally grown produce, artisanal cheese and other local products. Mozzarella is stretched daily and Hageman crafts his own fennel sausage. Meat and meatless options don the menu, which also includes a mostly unexpected array of salads and appetizers, such as La Quercia Rossa Prosciutto with Housemade Mustard, Pickled Cantaloupe and Toast.
The website warns that pizzas are not always round, a sign of unpretentiousness, and that guests are welcome to request that certain ingredients be removed, but not substituted.
Blue Ribbon is located at 897 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas in the Lumberyard Shopping Center.