Like any tourist, the pope has a checklist for his first official visit to New York City: Tour Central Park, pop by MSG, check out the 9/11 Museum. As for pizza, just because you live in Italy doesn’t mean you can resist the siren song of an authentic New York slice.
“He said that he wished to go out and to have a piece of pizza,” his friend of 30 years, Father Hernán Paredes, told Fox 5 New York last week of the pope’s upcoming visit.
And Francis clearly longs for the days when he could grab a quick slice.
“The only thing I would like is to go out one day, without being recognized, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza,” he told a Mexican television station in March.
In response, Enzo Cacialli, who runs a pizza joint in Italy, whipped up a pie in the yellow-and-white colors of the Vatican and took it to a street procession in Naples, where he hopped a fence and ran up to the popemobile.
The smiling — and slightly surprised — pope accepted the pie with a thank you. “I’ll have it later,” he said, according to ABC News. The video of the giddy pizza delivery went viral and has been viewed almost a million times. Other fans of Pope Francis greeted him with pizza — including one in the shape of a heart — at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
While the official menu for the pope’s NYC visit is a secret, several local pizzerias are vying to be the official pizza ambassador to the pontiff.
And since the pope has a diet to worry about — he doesn’t get as much exercise as he did when he spent lots of time walking as an archbishop in Argentina — some are offering leaner options.
“The new doctor is quite serious and trying to keep him back to the weight [he was] when he was selected,” says an official at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, which is co-hosting the pope. “He seems to be quite disciplined when it comes to what he’s eating.”
Still, it’d be a sin for him to skip pizza entirely when he’s in NYC.
— Mashable (@mashable) September 23, 2015
Some people see images of Jesus in toast, but Bleecker Street Pizza chef Tony Salihaj saw the pope in pizza. Salihaj (at right) spent three hours crafting the image out of mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, using anchovies for the papal staff, and tomatoes and peppers to adorn his hat and vestments.
For skin tone, Salihaj mixed ricotta with raspberry dressing.
He thinks the “pope of the people” would identify with the 10-year-old Village slice joint. “We try to be fair with our products and our food,” he says. “It’s not all about money, it’s about getting a good product out there.” 69 Seventh Ave. South; 212-924-4466
Rosario Procino of Union Square’s Ribalta pizzeria was inspired by his Neapolitan pal, pizza maker Enzo Cacialli, who hopped a fence to deliver a pizza to the pope while he was in Naples, Italy, in March.
So Procino, a Catholic and a Naples native, made his own version: a pie topped with yellow tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella in the colors of the Vatican. It’s part of the pizza shop’s annual charity efforts: From each $23 pie sold, $3 will go to the charity No Kid Hungry.
But Procino’s not exactly eager to test the heightened security around the pontiff’s visit.
“We’re not going to try to jump any barricades here,” he laughs. The pie will be available through Dec. 31. 48 E. 12th St.; 212-777-7781
In honor of the pope’s visit, Paulie Gee — owner of the eponymous Greenpoint pizzeria — is serving the $15 Papa Frankie: a white pie cooked in his wood-fired oven, topped with a cross of yellow and red cherry tomatoes to represent the Vatican’s colors, as well as a ring of basil.
Gee is a Roman Catholic, and his wife works for a diocese in New Jersey, too. But don’t think that means he’s going to change the restaurant’s no-takeout policy for the pope.
“I will say that we don’t do takeout at Paulie Gee’s, and I can’t make an exception for anyone.”
Papa Frankie pie available through Friday. 60 Greenpoint Ave., Brooklyn; 347-987-3747
A lighter touch
Kesté Pizza & Vino co-owner Roberto Caporuscio researched some of the pope’s favorite foods, which include calamari (“He cooks himself this kind of dish,” Caporuscio says).
The result is the $28 Pizza del Papa Francesco, topped with calamari stuffed with ground beef, yellow zucchini sauteed with speck (a type of prosciutto), grape tomatoes and Urbani truffle cream (a low-calorie option compared to a cheese-heavy pie).
“It would be very good for him,” Caporuscio says. “It’s very light in ingredients — it’s not heavy.”
It won’t be Caporuscio’s first pope pizza. either: Kesté’s menu already contains a pie topped with butternut squash, zucchini, roasted peppers and buffalo mozzarella that he and a fellow pizza maker made for Pope John Paul II at a special event in Rome in 2000.
Served at both Kesté Pizza & Vino (271 Bleecker St.; 212-243-1500) and Don Antonio by Starita (309 W. 50th St.; 646-719-1043), through Sunday.
Steaking a claim
Emily’s Matthew Hyland dreamed up a beefy South American pizza.Photo: Stefano Giovannini
Emily chef-owner Matt Hyland knew the pope hailed from Argentina — where beef is king — so he created a pie topped with skirt steak asado, banana peppers, red cherry peppers and chimichurri sauce.
“It’s nothing like anything I’ve ever made before,” Hyland says. “I’ve never put a steak on a pizza.”
The Brooklyn-born Hyland was raised Roman Catholic and is excited about the pope’s visit. If Francis came into the restaurant — “after I kind of calm down a bit,” he says — Hyland would suggest he pair it with a Luigi Bosca cabernet sauvignon, one of the Clinton Hill restaurant’s best wines, which also happens to come from Argentina. 919 Fulton St., Brooklyn; 347-844-9588
A classic slice
Patsy’s Pizza, which has been open since 1933, is a stop on any serious pizza tour of the city for its coal-fired thin-crust pies topped with mozzarella and tomato sauce ($12; $1.75 for a slice, pictured above).
“It was the first pie to be sold by the slice in the United States,” owner Adem Brija says. “That’s what kept us here so long.”
“If you love pizza, you love it simple. [The pope] seems pretty humble and simple himself. I think he might like something simple.” 2287 First Ave.; 212-534-9783
This story originally appeared on NYPost.com.