March 2, 2007
Biba Rattled, But Still Open

KG BIBA PLATE.JPGSacramento Bee Photograph/Kevin German

Even in the best of times, managing a restaurant is a dicey balancing act. Biba Caggiano knows the feeling from 20 years of running her eponymous midtown restaurant. But today, she's literally doing a blancing act. Deconstruction of the parking garage next to Biba is under way, sending tremors through the restaurant. "The kitchen is shaking a little, glasses are rattling," says Caggiano with a chuckle.

The tearing down of the garage is one phase of an industrious expansion of Sutter Medical Center. The loss of the garage is complicating an already competitive parking scene about 28th and Capitol for residents and visitors alike, including patrons of restaurants. Caggiano has responded by adding valet parking ($5). Her lunch business slumped 40 to 50 percent when the project got under way several months ago, but has rebounded lately. "It looks bad," said Caggiano of the construction zone, "but strangely enough business is not bad." It remains fairly strong at night, when work on the medical facilities ends, she adds.

Still, customer counts can fluctuate dramatically from one day to the next, and she frets about Biba being overlooked for all the big-rig traffic, construction fencing and the like in the area. In addition to adding valet parking, she's launched an advertising campaign to alert diners that Biba is remaining open during construction, not expected to be finished until 2010. "We are still here, and we are not going anyplace," Caggiano says.

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