Lidia Bastianich, the restaurateur whose food and cooking shows have introduced generations of Americans to the nuances of Italian cooking, had the rare opportunity this weekend to cook for one of the world's most recognized celebrities — Pope Francis.
Bastianich, a member of The Daily Meal Council, joined by her children, Joe Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali, and by Angelo Vivolo of the Vivolo Restaurant Group and his son Frank, prepared meals for His Holiness during his entire stay in New York City, from Thursday evening all the way through Saturday morning, when the Pope was served an early breakfast before heading to Philadelphia.
Created at Bastianich’s flagship restaurant Felidia, and including produce and herbs from the chef’s home garden, the Papal menu featured several of the restaurant’s signature dishes, accompanied by wines from the Bastianich winery in Italy.
Among the dishes served to Pope Francis were Maine lobster with heirloom tomatoes and burrata, the chef's signature cacio e pere (pear-and-pecorino-filled ravioli), tuna tartare, and whole roasted striped bass with late summer vegetables.
This is the second time that Bastianich and Vivolo have teamed up to cook for the leader of the Catholic Church: in 2008, the pair prepared meals for Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
In a statement, Bastianich called the weekend an extraordinary honor. “Cooking for the Pope is special because not only am I Catholic, but I came to this country in 1958 as a refugee from communist Yugoslavia and was cared for by Catholic Relief Services," Bastianich said. “They did so much to give me a start in America, so I am very proud to give back through what is most dear to me on this earth: food and my family.”