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I love pizza. New York style, Neopolitan, Chicago style, thin, thick, red, white, I don't care. I have a few non-negotiables (no Hawaiian style, barbecued chicken, or green bell peppers), but those are just holdovers from my days of eating bad food in endless corporate meetings.

You won't find anything like that on the menu of Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria in Encinitas. Owners Wade and Kristi Hageman are committed to using local farmers markets and breweries, sustainable practices, and organic produce.

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The pizza dough goes through a three-day fermentation (Wade generously shares this and other recipes on their website), mozzarella is made in house daily, fennel sausage is made with Berkshire pork. Kristi manages the front of the house, and Wade presides over the biggest wood burning oven I've ever seen (it's a full five feet from front to back). His peel is longer than I am.

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While John and I sipped on our Green Flash Triple IPAs, our server came over and told us about the day's specials with genuine enthusiasm. Homemade meatballs. "Whole Hog" pizza. I'm sold. It's nice to see staff so interested and well versed in what they are serving the customers.

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The meatballs are big, meaty and have a great texture. These aren't just Mom's meatloaf in a smaller form. No breadcrumb/egg filler here. The house red sauce is rich and garlicky, heavy with roasted tomato and olive oil flavor. Alongside are pieces of chewy, crusty bread for getting every last drop.

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The pizza has an impossibly thin, crispy crust and a beautiful char. I've had too many Neopolitan style pizzas that were blackened on the crust and raw in the middle. Not so here - this crust is baked through and through. On top is the house red sauce, fennel sausage, pepperoni, salumi, mozzarella, all house made, and La Quercia Rossa prosciutto (made from 100% Berkshire pork).

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I don't often order desserts, but I wanted to try their butterscotch pudding. It's topped with a caramel sauce and flaky fleur de del. If that sounds cloyingly sweet, it's not. The pudding is light, the caramel sauce has a nice burnt (in a good way) edge, and the crunchy salt balances it all perfectly.

This is really, really satisfying food made by people who love what they are doing.

Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria

897 South Pacific Coast Highway

Encinitas CA 92024

760-634-7671

http://www.blueribbonpizzeria.com/index.html

Hours:

Monday & Tuesday 5:00 - 9:30

Wednesday 11:30 - 2:30 / 5:00 - 9:00

Thursday 11:30 - 2:30 / 5:00 - 9:30

Friday - Saturday 11:30 -2:30 / 5:00 - 10:00

Sunday 12:00 - 9:00

Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria is located in the Lumberyard Shopping Center in Encinitas, CA.

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