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Celebrity Chefs

What Pope Francis ate in New York City

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Felidia restaurateur Angelo Vivolo and owner Lidia Bastianich prepared meals for Pope Francis during the visit. (AP Photos)

The Pope has returned back to Vatican City but many may be wondering exactly what he thought of his time in the U.S. 

At least when it came to food, chefs in New York City made sure his Holiness ate well. Though it was rumored Pope Francis wanted to enjoy a classic New York City slice of pizza, it turns out he was treated to more upscale fare.

 

Feeding the leader of the world's more than 1 billion Roman Catholics is a daunting task, but Lidia Bastianich said she felt the dishes she offered Francis during his 40 hours in Manhattan pulled off the feat of being straightforward, sophisticated, even spiritual.

"In this food, for me, is everything I feel about Catholicism. ... Let's feed each other some sustenance, some love," said Bastianich, who went into her own garden to pick carrots, beets, tomatoes and herbs for the pontiff's meals.

Sliced heirloom tomatoes, steamed lobster and house-made burrata greeted Pope Francis on his first night in New York, where a celebrity chef cooking for her second pontiff said her menu was inspired by Francis' humility and simplicity.

The Associated Press got an exclusive tasting of some of the dishes on Francis' five-meal New York menu, which took its cue from the pontiff's healthy diet in Rome. His doctor reportedly is trying to get him to lose 15 pounds.

The tomato and lobster salad gave way Thursday night to veal with porcini mushrooms. Dessert was Concord grape sorbet and angel food cake.

"I think it plays well, given the situation," joked Bastianich.

Friday's lunch included risotto with summer truffles and aged grana Padano cheese as well as a surprise late addition to the menu — bagna cauda, a garlic-anchovy dip for raw vegetables Bastianich heard Francis loves.

After lunch, Francis strolled into the kitchen, thanked Bastianich, restaurateur Angelo Vivolo and their kitchen crew, and asked if he could share an espresso with them. The pope ended by giving each a rosary and a blessing.

"Our eyes swelled with tears," Bastianich said.

Bastianich prepared Francis' meals at the five-story Upper East Side townhouse of the Vatican's United Nations representative, where the 78-year-old pope took respite from his hectic schedule and the rock-star roar of admiring crowds.

"There's an intimacy, a closeness, a warmth — he's a guest who sleeps upstairs," she said. "It's like having family visiting and you're cooking."

Here are the menus of the meals served to Pope Francis during his 40-hour stay in New York City, prepared by chef Lidia Bastianich. Each is accompanied by wines produced at the Bastianich family vineyards in Italy:

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THURSDAY

Dinner:

Salad of heirloom tomatoes, house-made burrata cheese and steamed Maine lobster

Capon soup with grana padano cheese-filled raviolini

Veal medallions with porcini mushrooms, corn and fresh tomato

Concord grape sorbet with angel food cake

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FRIDAY

Breakfast:

Assorted house-baked goods, jams, fruit, yogurt, frittata, crepes, freshly squeezed juices

Lunch:

"Bagna cauda" garlic-anchovy dip for raw vegetables

Salad of raw and cooked vegetables with homemade ricotta

Risotto with porcini, summer truffles and the finest, aged grana padano cheese

Roasted pears and grapes with almond chocolate "semifreddo"

Dinner:

Tuna three ways (tartare; thin slices crusted with herbs; and tuna steaks "alla Palermitana," topped with preserved tuna, string beans and tomatoes)

Ravioli filled with shredded pears and pecorino, sprinkled with crushed pepper

Whole roasted Long Island striped bass, late summer vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, lemon

Apple crostata with local honey and ice cream

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SATURDAY

Breakfast:

Assorted house-baked goods, jams, fruit, yogurt, frittata, crepes, freshly squeezed juices

The Associated Press contributed to this report.