Sinatra Launches His Saucy New Line

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's a rare day when Frank Sinatra smiles at reporters and photographers.

It's an even rarer day when Frank Sinatra talks to reporters and poses for photographers.

But that's exactly what happened Tuesday night when he introduced his signature spaghetti sauce Artanis (Sinatra spelled backwards) to Southern California supermarkets. Of course, the kick-off celebration wasn't held at Vons or Ralphs. This is the Chairman of the Board, after all. So Sinatra's "pasta pack" gathered at that entertainment industry commissary, Morton's, which almost never hosts a private party on a weekday. Unless it's Sinatra's.

In keeping with the Italian theme, the fete was a family affair, including daughters Tina and Nancy, son Frank Jr., and granddaughters Amanda and A.J. When Nancy Sinatra complained she hadn't had any of her dad's sauce "in a long time," sister Tina consoled her by noting that "now you'll be able to go into a local supermarket and buy it."

"You mean, I'll have to pay for it?" Nancy countered.

Fellow Italian food aficionados Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence, Suzanne Pleshette and Tommy Gallagher, and Pia Zadora and Meshulam Riklis all were encouraged to overdose on Artanis. And that was easy, since the noodles came with Frank's sauce, the meat balls came with Frank's sauce, the shrimp came with Frank's sauce (even the waiter raised an eyebrow at that one).

And why should anyone buy Frank's sauce?

"Because I made it," Old Blue Eyes (and we don't mean Paul Newman) announced proudly.

With that, Don Rickles' eyes widened.

"Yeah, he makes it, and if I fall over, then he eats it. I'm the official taster," noted Rickles as Sinatra and wife Barbara doubled over with laughter.

The comic already is anticipating a lot more Italian meals with Sinatra when they go out on the road together starting Aug. 17. "Hey, what else do you eat with him? Not Chinese. You never hear Frank say, 'Let's go out for won ton soup and egg rolls.' "

Other guests have even had Sinatra cook for them at his Palm Springs home. "He's really a great cook," agreed Eydie Gorme. But when Sinatra gave her his recipe for pasta sauce 14 years ago, he left out some ingredients. "So I had to call him at home--he was entertaining a President or something--to find out he forgot to include tomato paste and oregano."

Now that it's bottled, she won't have to bother him again. "If I were a bowl of pasta, I'd love to have Sinatra's sauce all over me," she confided.

Artanis all-natural sugo da tavola (sauce) in three varieties (tomato basil with Parmesan cheese, Milano style and marinara with mushrooms) already is selling better-than-expected in Northern California, according to company officials, and will be available in Sinatra's old stomping grounds of New York-New Jersey by the end of this year. Unlike Newman's spaghetti sauce venture, whose proceeds are donated to charity, Sinatra's is strictly for profit.

"Of course, Mr. Sinatra is well known for contributing his time and money to charity," noted his spokeswoman Susan Reynolds.

Now he'll be known for cooking. And his sauce must be good. After all, Veronique Peck left the party clutching three jars, one in each flavor.

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