Lidia: «I cooked for two popes»

Bastianich in Chicago told us about the two experiences with Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis

07-10-2015
A fanciful end to the lesson held by Heinz Beck an

A fanciful end to the lesson held by Heinz Beck and Andrew Zimmermann at Eataly Chicago. By popular demand, Lidia Bastianich, the most famous Italian female chef in the US, took the microphone and told us about the menu she served a few days ago to Pope Francis, during his visit to the United States. Seven years ago she did the same with Pope Benedict (photo by Brambilla/Serrani)

There was a juicy episode at the end of the lesson held by Heinz Beck and Andrew Zimmermann in Chicago. Given Lidia Bastianich was among the spectators, the audience wanted to ask her a couple of questions about her recent experience with Pope Francis: the most famous Italian female chef overseas cooked for the pope on the occasion of his recent apostolic trip to the United States. It turned out that maybe Bastianich is the only female chef to cook twice for two different popes in the course of her life.

The first time was in April 2008, at the Apostolic Nunciature in New York (between Madison and 72nd Street), during Benedict XVI trip to the United States. «Pope Ratzinger», she recalled that important night with us, «first wanted to make sure the menu would be to his liking. I remember I prepared Agnolini in capon broth, with a broth I made especially and only for him. And then Raviolini with cheese and pears. He liked fresh pasta very much. I remember we prepared some Apfelstrudel at the end, the apple strudel is Viennese but very popular in Bavaria, the region where he was born. But he wanted it without cinnamon, as he doesn’t like it». Did you speak during the dinner? «Not much because he was controlled by his staff, they directed him like a robot. During the dinner he mostly spoke about ‘work’ with his collaborators. He ate and worked».

ACCLAIMED. Pope Francis’recent apostolic journey from 19th till the 28th September included Cuba and the US

ACCLAIMED. Pope Francis’recent apostolic journey from 19th till the 28th September included Cuba and the US

Last week the reprise, again in New York but this time with Pope Francis: Lidia, the chef at Felidia Fortunato Nicotra and the entire staff spent 3 days again at the Apostolic Nunciature, preparing two breakfasts, one lunch and two dinners. A dinner entirely focused on simplicity. «When I was given the appointment, I thought about a special menu: I wanted to homage his Argentinian origins with a nice rib eye steak [she mimes the size with her hands] and his Piedmontese origins too, and the current season with risotto with mushrooms and truffles. He didn’t want this though: he just asked for some white rice, asking for it to be creamed with a little Grana Padano. I then prepared a little veal, some grilled tuna with steamed vegetables and a roasted sea bass. We ended with an apple cake which he didn’t finish. He eats everything but in a very simple way and with no abstract elaboration. I also remember he explicitly asked not to eat seeds, of any kind». In coherence with the Doctrine.

SO POPULAR. At the end of the lesson, Lidia Bastianich found time for the numerous fans, queuing for a photo

SO POPULAR. At the end of the lesson, Lidia Bastianich found time for the numerous fans, queuing for a photo

How did he behave with you? «Splendidly: he was calmer, he spoke with people, he was not formal at all. At the end of the dinner he appeared in the kitchen. We offered him a chair but he preferred to stand. We were scared because we were afraid something had gone wrong. He didn’t say anything in particular about the dinner, he just wanted to have a coffee with us. When serving it, my daughter was so agitated she stumbled and broke her dress. It was incredibly exciting for everyone».

What do you think about the course Bergoglio is giving to the Church? «He’s a real contemporary pope. I hold him very dear because he touches, in a very gentle way, things that are very delicate to us. He doesn’t administer his dogma from the pulpit but speaks the language of ordinary people. He’s a pope who invites others and opens his doors. He has a different way of connecting with believers, he moves to their level. He’s like a friend».

There’s just one thing Francis and Benedict XVI had in common: wine. «They drunk our Bastianich wines, the ones we bottle in Friuli, but also the ones from Maremma we make at La Mozza. Just a drop each, however…».


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