Oct. 23 2015 02:21 PM

Pizza and sandwiches are great; market offers take-home treats

Crudo pizza
Photo by Jenny Montgomery

I love the Eurovision song contest. If you've never seen this annual cavalcade of bonkers, it's a live singing contest where each European nation sends its "best" entry to perform a song and dance, along with a ridiculous explosion of fashion choices. It's an outlandish treasure and it pains me that Bravo hasn't figured out a way to bring it to us complete with Andy Cohen commentary.

Now, Quei Bravi Ragazzi (QBR) Francesca Italian Kitchen (90 North Coast Highway 101) in Encinitas has that offbeat European charm that I love so much. There is an enthusiastic and completely un-ironic embrace of certain parts of American culture that would be super-dorky under other circumstances. "Rebel Without A Cause!" is spray painted on one of its walls. "Everything Is Awesome!" from The Lego Movie is enthusiastically blaring out of its speakers. And nobody is chuckling about it. Because it is awesome, you guys.

QBR is a deceptively spacious little bar and Italian market tucked into the condo complex perched just above Moonlight Beach and the Coast Highway. The restaurant's name refers to the Italian translation of "Goodfellas," which I suppose explains its love of rebellious movie references.

The entrance hosts a bar with sports playing on multiple flat-screens, and a small but impressive selection of Italian delicacies for sale. Italian cookies, prosciutto di Parma, and various pastas and cheeses are immediately tempting. But I'd recommend sitting down and letting them cook for you.

It's hard to choose between the pastas, sandwiches and pizzas, but you can't go wrong with the simple crudo pizza. The crust is thin and chewy with crunchy, blackened bits on the bottom of each bite. Topping the crust is the sweetest, most basic of tomato sauces. There's not much more than a thin swipe of sauce. Any more than that and the delicacy of the pie would be lost. Next come tissue-thin sheets of prosciutto. Once the pizza slides into that hot oven, the ham crisps up a bit, becoming easier to nibble. It also releases its salty goodness into the top of the dough. It's an elegant and perfect snack for watching sports.

Dive into the sandwich offerings if you're looking to nibble on something more substantial. I loved the Francesca, a hearty collection of flavors squished between two thick, soft slices of focaccia. Clearly I need more cured ham in my life, because this sammie has a healthy pile of prosciutto, along with thin slices of provolone, crisp asparagus spears, and a perfectly over-easy fried egg. This sandwich is messy and salty and demands a lot of napkins, but I loved it.

It would be too easy for me to just say that everything is awesome at QBR, but I will. Because I'm a rebel. With sort of a cause. I guess. Just go eat there, OK?


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