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  • Randall Benton / RBenton@sacbee.com

    Sacramento restaurateur Kurt Spataro strums a few chords as his wife, radio personality Kitty O’Neal, listens in their home in Sacramento’s Curtis Park neighborhood. Spataro puts in the hours on his keyboards and five acoustic and five electric guitars. He and O’Neal met in the 1980s when she joined his band, Secret Service, as a singer. “We did a Secret Service reunion show at Old Ironsides in August, and played at Skip’s Music’s 40th anniversary party,” said O’Neal. Above, a guitar signed by Jeff Beck.

  • Randall Benton / RBenton@sacbee.com

    Spataro and O’Neal, left, show off their 1960s vintage espresso maker, one of several pieces of coffee-making machinery in their home.

  • Randy Pench / rpench@sacbee.com

    Kitty O'Neal acts as the emcee and Kurt Spataro plays at the Firehouse Lot during the Sacramento Music Festival on May 25 in Old Sacramento.

  • Randall Benton / RBenton@sacbee.com

    Kitty O’Neal shows gowns she’s worn at 23 Academy Awards ceremonies for KFBK (1530 AM). She designed and made several herself. “This one may not be my favorite, but it’s one of the more interesting ones,” she said, unwrapping a creation of purple and green silk velvet and silk organdy. “It was made by (designer) Elizabeth Galindo,” O’Neal said. “She was making a dress for Sophia Loren out of this material and used the remnant to make this dress for me. I’m fortunate to probably be the only person on the planet to have a dress made out of the same fabric as a dress worn by Sophia Loren.”

  • Randall Benton / RBenton@sacbee.com

    Kurt Spataro shows off one of his three surfboards. Spataro has ridden the waves at beaches in California, Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica and Morocco, and treasures his boards. “They’re collectible but functional,” he said. “Two of them were designed and shaped by Doug Haut, a Santa Cruz legend who’s been shaping boards for 45 years. One of them he’d made for himself, and sold it to me at his shop.”

  • Randall Benton / RBenton@sacbee.com

    Local radio personality Kitty O'Neal and her husband chef Kurt Spataro relax at their home in Sacramento. Spataro is playing one of the guitars from his collection.

  • Randall Benton / RBenton@sacbee.com

    Local radio personality Kitty O’Neal in the back yard of her home in Sacramento..

  • Randall Benton / RBenton@sacbee.com

    Kurt Spataro collects guitars including this one signed by Jeff Beck.

At home with: Kitty O’Neal and Kurt Spataro specialize in ‘multitalenting’

Published: Saturday, Sep. 21, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Saturday, Sep. 21, 2013 - 12:57 am

A truck was parked in front of the Tudor-style house in Curtis Park. Inside, a plumber was installing a new water heater. A visitor rang the doorbell and waited. A few joggers and bicyclists passed by on the quiet street. This wasn’t the first time The Bee had visited this address. Five years ago, then-fashion columnist Leigh Grogan wrote about its “interior design scheme.”

Suddenly, Kitty O’Neal opened the front door to the home she shares with her husband, Kurt Spataro.

“What would you like to see first?” she asked in that good-humored voice so recognizable to thousands of radio listeners. The polished KFBK (1530 AM) afternoon news anchor is one of the go-to personalities in Sacramento whenever a master of ceremonies is needed for a fundraiser or other special event, and she has hosted hundreds of them.

“Hello, I’m Kurt,” said Spataro, joining us in the foyer. Was he perhaps coming from the kitchen, where he was putting the finishing touches on an exotic lunch spread? Well, no, but that hope was not misplaced. The self-taught cook is the executive chef and partner of the Paragary Restaurant Group. One of its restaurants was named after him, opening in 2005 on L Street. Spataro closed in March for a complete renovation and was reincarnated in April as Hock Farm Craft & Provisions.

O’Neal and Spataro are multitalented people. He’s a surfer and musician who plays guitar and keyboards; she’s a singer, and an expert seamstress and clothes designer. They’ve been married 24 years, having met in the 1980s when she joined his band, Secret Service, as a singer.

The couple lives in a home filled with intriguing objects collected from global travels together — Hong Kong, Japan, France, Italy, England, Mexico — and individually — among them, England and Scotland for her, Bali, Thailand and Morocco for him.

“Wherever we go, we find things we bring back because they have meaning to us,” O’Neal said.

Dozens of pieces of art, sculpture and antique furniture transform each room into a homey mini-museum, yet there is no sense of crowding. Among the objects are a custom-made table of Carrara marble and a striking mirror, framed by a single piece of curving, polished wood; both are from Italy; and a chandelier dripping with crystals found in a Paris street market. Hiding out somewhere are three indoor cats.

A Brazilian cherrywood floor covers the foyer-dining room-living room area. We crossed it and entered the kitchen, floored in blond hardwood. The kitchen is a cook’s dream of granite-topped counters and roomy cupboards. Dominating are a six-burner professional Wolfe stove and a stainless-steel Sub Zero refrigerator-freezer.

We peeked inside the ’fridge. Bottles of champagne, organic beer and San Pellegrino water shared space with milk, yogurt, almond butter, vegetables and condiments.

“This is dried tuna roe (botargo); you grate it over pasta,” Spataro said, holding up a plastic-wrapped lump. “This is a bottle of special soy sauce I got for Christmas.”

“We’d leave town and my brother would come over to feed the cats,” O’Neal said with a chuckle. “He’d say, ‘You have nothing in your refrigerator but seasonings, vegetables and milk. You don’t have anything fun.’”

“Some chefs don’t like to cook at home, but I do, six or seven nights a week,” Spatarto said.

“Once in a great while I’ll cook, but not often,” O’Neal said. “I love to do desserts when we have company or parties. I do great pies.”

How would she fare as a pastry chef in the Hock Farm kitchen?

“She would hold her own,” Spataro said, smiling at his wife.

O’Neal eats very little red meat, and Spataro is equally conscientious, so the dinner table is most often laid with salads, pasta and fish, especially salmon in season. Pork and chicken are served when guests come for dinner.

In one corner of the kitchen is a Sub Zero refrigerated wine cabinet filled with 200 bottles from the Napa Valley, France and Italy, part of Spataro’s collection.

Some of his favorite and most collectible cabernets are from Dalla Valle, a tiny blue-chip winery in Oakville. Its production is so limited that it does not have a tasting room, nor can customers buy wine at the brick-and-mortar facility. Only a small percentage of its few releases show up at upscale restaurants and retailers. Mostly, the wines are available through its mailing list, and there’s a wait of several years to get on it.

“I don’t have a crazy-wild collection,” Spataro said. “It’s fairly small, but it’s nice.”

Sitting next to the wine cabinet is a restored Faema E-61 espresso maker, a vintage machine built in the early 1960s and purchased by Spataro on the Italian eBay site.

“I think it’s a piece of art,” he said, “but it’s overkill, since I’m the only one who drinks espresso. So I have a smaller La Scala machine.”

“These are just in case there aren’t enough ways to make coffee in this house,” O’Neal said, lining up two coffee grinders, a press pot, an Arrow-brand drip pot, a Japanese dripper, a mocha pot, a siphon pot and thick cups bearing the Blue Bottle coffee company logo. “Oh, and a coffeemaker for parties,” she added, “but I only drink decaf.”

As we chatted, it was a surprise to learn that O’Neal has attended 23 Academy Awards ceremonies in her role of broadcast journalist.

“It’s been one of those things that has intrigued me, not so much for the celebrities as for the fashion,” she said. “I’ve worn a different dress at each (event). Some I’ve made, some have been made for me and some I’ve bought already made.”

Where did the dress-making gene come from?

“I took sewing in home-ec in eighth grade,” O’Neal said with a broad smile. “My mother didn’t sew a stitch, and she couldn’t believe I had this talent. She wanted to get me a sewing machine. My dad said to her, ‘Get her a top one. I don’t want to put a limit on her talent.’ I made costumes for Kurt and myself when I was singing in his band, and I made my wedding dress.”

We moved down a hallway and into a room dizzy with leopard-print wallpaper and cluttered with guitars, amplifiers, a keyboard and a potpourri of Mexican folk art. This is “Kurt’s room,” O’Neal said.

“We did a Secret Service reunion show at Old Ironsides in August, and played at Skip’s Music’s 40th anniversary party,” O’Neal said. “We got to play with guys from Montrose, Tesla and Night Ranger, and I sang backup for Pablo Cruz.”

Also in the room is Spataro’s library of cookbooks, arranged in two stuffed bookcases, one of them 8 feet tall and 20 feet wide.

Has he read them all? “Yeah...” he said, in a tone that suggested something like, “Of course ... what do you think?”

“He reads them like novels,” O’Neal said.

Which one is the most treasured? Spartaro quickly found a signed first edition of “The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook.” “There’s sentimental value to it, but you can see it’s well used.”

Back in the main rooms, three big landscape paintings hang. They were painted by Matthew Frederick, who designed and built the backyard patio-garden in 1992.

“We eat out here on pleasant evenings,” O’Neal said.

In the garage, Spataro’s three surfboards are kept in zippered covers. Surfing is a sport he got into 12 years ago. He’s ridden waves in Northern and Southern California, and in several foreign countries. His “local” spots are Bolinas, Santa Cruz and Pacifica.

Also stashed in the garage are boxes full of LPs, part of yet another collection.

“The guy who was the head of advertising for Tower Records sold his record collection, and guess who bought it,” O’Neal said.

“He had about 900 albums,” Spataro said. “In addition to mine, there are probably about 1,500 albums.”

Spataro’s retro stacked stereo system gets a regular workout.

“There’s nothing like vinyl,” he said.


Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe

Read more articles by Allen Pierleoni



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