When Italian celebrity chef, author and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich was asked to cook for her first papal visit from Pope Benedict XVI, she was truly honored. But when she was once again requested to cook meals for Pope Francis upon his recent New York visit in September, she was beyond blessed.
“Cooking for a Pope is really something. It’s not what you expect as part of the curriculum of being a chef, but I was blessed,” said Bastianich. “When they first asked me I said sure, and I was excited, but I didn’t think it was going to happen.”
With the help of Angelo Vivolo of Vivolo Restaurant Group, his son, Frank, and Bastianich’s two children, Joe Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali, the chef prepared a simple, yet exquisite menu, consisting of two breakfasts, one lunch and two dinners.
“The Pope stays in the nuncio’s house when he travels, so we cooked in that same setting. It was an extraordinary dinner, you go to the house and you live with the Pope,” said Bastianich of his holiness, who came into the kitchen and blessed Bastianich and her crew. “I thought since he was Argentinian, I would make a nice big piece of meat, a rib roast, and his confidant said that he wanted to stay light and watch his diet, which was OK with me.”
Pope Francis is Italian as well, so Bastianich prepared a delicious menu comprised of vegetable soup, striped bass roasted with parsley, olive oil and lemon, Maine lobster with heirloom tomatoes and burrata, the chef’s signature cacio e pere (pear and pecorino filled ravioli) and risotto con porcini e tartufi (risotto with porcini, summer truffles and Grana Padano Riserva cheese).
“He loves squash so my mother, who is 95, brought things from our garden for him. It was extraordinary,” said Bastianich.
Want to eat like the Pope? Try Bastianich’s recipe for Creamy Rice with ‘Piglet’ Mushrooms (Risotto con Porcini) from her book, La Cucina di Lidia.
Read more about Bastianich here.
Read about Bastianich’s partnership with Mario Batali here.