Kitchen Confidential

(page 10 of 21)

Photo by Marc Thomas Kallweit

Spaghetti Puttanesca con Tuna

Biba Restaurant

During his time as speaker of the California State Assembly in the ’80s and ’90s, Willie Brown was one of Biba Caggiano’s most loyal diners. “He was generally here one or two lunches a week minimum, and at least one or two dinners a week,” says Biba Restaurant’s GM Scott Smith. “He sat at table 41 or 42 by the windows.”

One day about 25 years ago, Brown ordered a special called Spaghetti Puttanesca con Tuna. He was hooked. So for years to come, the famously dapper Dem continued to request it, and does so to this day.

The simple dish comprises spaghetti noodles (it can also be made with other pastas like penne or linguine), San Marzano tomato sauce, anchovies, minced garlic, capers, diced black olives and white tuna packed in oil. “The spaghetti and tuna [combination] isn’t widespread, but most people who try it really like it,” says Smith.

He remembers one time when Brown ordered the dish, but the kitchen had run out of tuna. When word reached Caggiano, she quickly dispatched a staffer to Corti Brothers, which carries the jarred Ortiz white tuna she favors (“People use StarKist tuna—it’s not the same,” says Smith) and instructed the team to keep it in stock.

And while Brown’s visits to the capital city have decreased in recent years, the 83-year-old former Mayor of San Francisco still pops in a few times a year, and the kitchen is always prepared. $18.50. 2801 Capitol Ave. 916-455-2422. biba-restaurant.com

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