People who eat at the midtown Sacramento restaurant Biba often are priming their palates for a trip to Italy. Between bites, they'll grab proprietor Biba Caggiano and ask her to recommend restaurants in Florence or Venice or Rome or wherever they are heading.
These requests inspired Biba to start planning her next book, a combination cookbook and travelogue. She began work on the project more than five years ago, got sidelined with cancer, and resumed her research when she recovered.
Now the book is about to be published. Artisan will release her "Biba's Italy: Favorite Recipes from the Splendid Cities" ($29.95, 336 pages) in September. It will be her eighth book. (The subtitle is subject to change between now and September; Biba prefers "Recipes from Italy's Splendid Cities.")
"It's a very personal book," says Biba. "It has my voice. The introduction to each chapter is like I am talking to you, saying come with me, check this out."
It won't be a "best of" book, but a compilation of her favorite places in five major cities - Bologna, Florence, Venice, Milan, Rome. Though there are "millions of places in Italy that are splendid," she concentrated on the most popular cities.
Her husband, Dr. Vincent Caggiano, wrote the sections on wines fitting to drink in each of the cities.
She will be busy this late summer and early fall. In addition to a 10-city promotional tour for the book in September she will celebrate the 20th anniversary of her restaurant in August. For that she is to supplement her current menu with the restaurant's very first menu, with dishes at the same prices she charged in 1986. "I will go broke," she says, but laughing as she does.