Biba Caggiano, born and raised in Bologna, Italy, opened Biba Ristorante Italiano in 1986 in the historic Old Tavern (aka the Sacramento Brewery) building. Biba has been serving authentic Italian food to grateful Sacramentans ever since.
Three friends and I took advantage of Sacramento Dine Downtown Week to enjoy dinner at Biba. We had reservations for 6:15 p.m., and I had arrived a few minutes early. I was greeted immediately upon entering and offered the choice of being seated at our table or taking a seat at the bar. I decided to sit at the bar while I waited for my friends and enjoy a glass of Happy Hour cabernet ($7.50). Happy Hour at Biba is Monday through Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
See related post: 13th Annual Sacramento Dine Downtown Week
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When my friends arrived we were shown to our table and seated. Biba is known for friendly, attentive service – and our server Jorge was no exception. He was outstanding and took very good care of us the entire evening.
It was mid-week and the good-sized restaurant was virtually full. My guess is that a number of other diners were doing the same thing we were – taking advantage of the Sacramento Dine Downtown Week pricing.
My friends each ordered a drink, while I continued to sip my wine. We also ordered a basket of bread ($1.50) to munch on while we looked over the Sacramento Dine Downtown Week menu ($35 for 3-course Pre-Fix Dinner). If you haven’t tried the Biba house-made bread sticks – I highly recommend them.
Biba Sacramento Dine Downtown Week Menu
- 1st Course – Choice of La Zuppa radice di sedano (celery root puree soup and black truffle) or Insalata di Mandarini (salad of mixed greens, mandarins and goat cheese).
- 2nd Course – Penne d’Autunno (penne with winter squash, speck and cream).
- 3rd Course – Choice of Pollo alla Griglia (chicken cooked under a brick, roasted brussels sprouts and turnips) or Salmone con Fregola e Pomodoro (grilled salmon on a bed of fregola stewed in fennel and tomatoes).
After looking over the menu, two of us ordered the soup and two of us the salad. For the main course, two of us opted for the chicken and two of us the salmon.
I had been really torn between the soup and salad, but I opted for the green salad – which was lightly dressed with a tasty vinaigrette dressing. The celery root soup was also a big hit – and every bite was obviously relished. Neither of my friends licked their bowls – although they threatened to do so.
The 2nd course pasta dish was likewise greatly enjoyed by all. As one would expect, the pasta is house-made. One friend made a point of eating her pasta one penne at a time in order to prolong the enjoyment. I decided to follow her example – that is how good it was.
Both main course dishes were likewise delicious. The salmon was most flavorful and I enjoyed every bite. The chicken received rave reviews. The portion was generous, and my two friends were very happy to have leftovers to take home and enjoy the next day.
Coffee and dessert finished what was a most memorable evening. Three of us ordered coffee ($3), and one a double expresso ($5). We decided to share two desserts – the Torta di Ricotta alla Espresso (expresso cheesecake with chocolate and caramel sauce) ($10.50) and the Zuccotto Fiorentino (chocolate coated, dome shaped, rum scented pound care filled with whipped cream, chocolate, almonds and hazelnuts) ($11). Both desserts were more than excellent – and I enjoyed several bites of each.
As the evening ended, the four of us were in full agreement that our meal had been exceptional, with one friend declaring that is was one of the five best meals she had eaten in her life!
RIP Biba Caggiano
(UPDATED 8/30/19) The Sacramento Bee reported yesterday that Biba Caggiano died on Thursday morning, September 29, at the age of 82. She leaves behind her husband of 59 years, two daughters and their families, as well as extended family in her native Bologna, Italy.
Biba was an institution in Sacramento, and she will be sorely missed by many. She was not only a chef and restaurant owner, but also the author of eight cookbooks. I recall watching her in years past on local TV as she demonstrated how various Italian dishes are made.
Biba was known for both her Italian cuisine and her hospitality. I have always enjoyed dining at Biba where fine dining, a welcoming atmosphere and outstanding service combine to make every meal there special.
I read with great interest comments made by fellow restaurateurs including Randy Paragary (Paragary Restaurant Group) about Biba. He reminisced that he and Rick Mahan (The Water Boy Restaurant and One Speed Pizza) took pasta making classes at Biba’s house in the 1980’s!
Something I was not aware of – In 2014, Biba was awarded the Giovanni Nuvoletti prize for preserving and protecting the authenticity of Italian gastronomy. The award was from the Academy of Italian Cuisine – a group that apparently takes Italian cuisine very seriously.
As I read the newspaper articles about Biba I could not help but wonder what her death meant for Biba the restaurant. It was with some relief that I read the family wants to keep the restaurant open – for as long as Biba customers keep returning.
It appears that long-time managers and staff plan to continue the Biba legacy of excellence – for which I am glad.
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