"Mum's the word about menu for pope's 81st birthday celebration", say Angelo Stagnaro of the Catholic News Service (April 16, 2008):
The tightest of security surrounded the meals being prepared for Pope Benedict XVI during his April 15-20 U.S. visit. Even the menus were being kept secret.We do get a few vague details, however -- about the chosen cuisine and the settings for the table:
"We were told by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, nuncio to the United States, to not reveal the menus, the budgets or even the ingredients of dishes we're preparing," said Franco Nuschese, the owner of Cafe Milano, an Italian restaurant in the Georgetown section of Washington.
Nuschese, executive chef Fabio Salvatore and 23 other professionals were responsible for Pope Benedict's 81st birthday lunch April 16 at the Vatican Embassy, or nunciature, in Washington.
"When Franco first told me, I thought he was joking. But then I quickly realized he was being serious," said Salvatore, a graduate of the Istituto Professionale Albergiero in Pescara, one of Italy's finest culinary institutes.
"I can say, however, the menu has a strong Emilia-Romagna influence," said Salvatore, referring to a region in northern Italy.
"We will be preparing a special pasta dish," said Nuschese. "It's based on an old family recipe created by my grandmother.
"The dish is not easy to make," he added. "It requires fresh vegetables which are currently in season. The dish would have been otherwise impossible to create had His Holiness come at any other time of the year."
He said 90 percent of the ingredients for the meal, "other than fresh vegetables, meats and fish," had been imported from Italy.