October 18, 1936 – August 29, 2019
Restauranteur, cookbook author, TV personality, and our mom, Biba Caggiano, passed away peacefully in the early morning of August 29, 2019, with her family by her side. Born in Bologna, Italy on October 18, 1936, she was the middle child of Antonietta and Leopoldo Bertacchini. Her older brother Gianni and younger sister Carla still live in Bologna with their families.
Although she always wanted to be a hairdresser, Mom was working as a bank clerk when she met her husband, Vincent, while he was studying medicine at the University of Bologna. After marrying in Bologna, Dad brought Mom to America where they moved near his family in Great Neck, NY. She continued to work as a clerk in an Italian bank in Manhattan as she began to master the English language. Soon after adopting their daughter, Carla, they moved out west and settled in Sacramento. A few years later, they adopted their second daughter, Paola.
Mom missed her hometown so we often trekked to San Francisco, where a thriving Italian community made familiar Italian products readily available. Longing for the food from her country, she took to the kitchen and started recreating the dishes with which she grew up. Thankfully, a trip to Corti Bros. was all she needed to find the proper ingredients, like prosciutto and pancetta. A few dinner parties later and word got out. Soon Mom found herself teaching cooking classes to the local ladies as they hovered around her kitchen island rolling out pasta. Some of our favorite memories are coming home from school to the ladies sipping wine and trading stories around the kitchen table. Cookbooks followed; numerous TV appearances evolved into a cooking show, “Biba’s Italian Kitchen;” and finally, the culmination was the opening of Biba Restaurant in 1986. Mom spent her days and nights there, greeting guests, helping customers celebrate special occasions, trading stories with old friends and new, and ultimately, making sure everything was “up to par.” After all, as she would say, it was her name on the door.
Mom had a contagious energy about her. She cherished her friends and colleagues and loved gathering people around the table, providing nourishment with a delicious meal and great conversation. She was silly, funny and feisty. Whether it was playing doubles tennis at Rio Del Oro or walking on her treadmill, she was always on the go. You would often see her in her chef’s jacket walking to work down Folsom Blvd. Even though she may have been little in stature, she was strong in spirit! She survived breast cancer and a hemorrhagic stroke, and over the last several years, suffered from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. But hers was a life well-lived. She was a passionate, strong-willed woman and she was our idol. She will be missed tremendously!
Mom leaves a legacy of love. She recently celebrated 59 years of marriage with our dad. She taught us, as her daughters, to be strong, self-sufficient, and compassionate. She adored her sons-in-law, Tim and Brian; her grandchildren, Andrew (19), Alexander (17), Aidan (17), Will (14), Lucy (11), and Jack (9); and all of her “kids” at Biba Restaurant.
A mass will be held in celebration of Biba’s life on Monday, September 30, 2019 at 10:00 am at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, 1017 11th Street, Sacramento. A reception will follow at the Annunciation Hellenic Center, 616 Alhambra Blvd. Biba participated in a number of charitable organizations and events. To honor her and in lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to a charity close to your heart.
- Memorial Mass Monday, September 30, 2019