Serving the Pontiff: A Regis Family's Encounter with Pope Francis

Watch: Lorenzo Manuali '17 and his mother, Tanya Bastianich Manuali P'17, reflect on their encounter with Pope Francis during the Pope's September visit to New York City.


place_settingWhen Pope Francis visited New York City in late September, his three-night stay in the townhouse originally owned by the Founding Family was not the only connection to the Regis community.

Lidia Bastianich, grandmother of Lorenzo Manuali '17, spent those three days serving as the pontiff's personal chef, cooking for Pope Francis and his 14-person entourage. Tanya Bastianich Manuali, PhD, Lorenzo's mom, was on kitchen duty as well, acting as server for the guests at the official residence of the Apostolic Nuncio from the Holy See to the United Nations. Angelo Vivolo, local restaurateur and friend of the Bastianich family, also helped with meal preparation.

Bastianich is an acclaimed chef, author, restaurateur, and Emmy Award-winning television personality. This was the second time she and Vivolo teamed up to cook for a pope, having prepared meals in 2008 for Pope Benedict XVI. This time around, meal preparation included two breakfasts, one lunch, and two dinners.

(Pictured: the place setting Bastianich arranged for Pope Francis's meals.)

"I can't help but smile because it was an amazing experience," said Tanya Bastianich Manuali P'17. "I had the pleasure of being in the dining room and serving him and the close group that was traveling with him."

"I came home and told my children and my husband that—after them—this was the second best thing that’s happened to me in my life!"

Manuali reminisced that Pope Francis possesses a rich personality and constantly radiates love for others.

"The Holy Father has a wonderful sense of humor. He makes jokes and has a warm disposition. When he saw a baby he would light up. You get a very clear sense that he has a direct connection to God."

Manuali recalls that sometime after lunch on his second day in the 72nd street townhouse, Pope Francis entered the kitchen looking for an espresso.

"I’ve never ran for an espresso so fast," said Manuali.

"We had the opportunity to have a conversation with him, and I told him that I had attended Jesuit schools, and how important Jesuit education is to our family. I told him my son attends Regis High School and we had a conversation about it."

In appreciation for their service, a brief audience with the pope was arranged for Manuali's family on the morning of September 26, the pontiff's final day in New York. Lorenzo, a junior at Regis, described the encounter as almost beyond comprehension.

"I expected it to be something very formal, but it ended up being surprisingly personal. When I got to him, I kind of froze in my spot, and eventually he put out his hand and I shook his hand. Then we exchanged a few words in Italian. I said I was honored, and he said its nice to meet you."

"I was able to present him with Fr. Andreassi's book, Teach Me To Be Generous. Although he couldn’t formally accept the book, he did bless the book and gave it back to us so that I could bring it back to Regis."

There was one item, however, that Pope Francis did accept.

"I presented him with a Regis t-shirt, and you could see that his eyes just lit up immediately. He recognized the high school I was attending, and took the shirt and smiled."

Of the various Regis apparel options to choose from, a Regis Science t-shirt seemed most appropriate, as Pope Francis studied chemistry and worked as a chemist prior to entering the seminary.

For Lorenzo, meeting the pope was a profound experience that was spiritually fulfilling.

"It was just amazing to meet such a kind, loving, caring, wonderful pope. He has always thought about others, and I think that provides a very clear and inspiring example to the rest of us of how we can live generous lives."



Lorenzo Manuali '17 presents Pope Francis with a Regis Science t-shirt.



The kitchen workers pose for a photo in the dining room.  Left to right: Angelo Vivolo, Lidia Bastianich GP'17, Fortunato Nicotra (Felidia chef), Anthony Decker (Felidia sous chef), Tanya Bastianich Manuali P'17.



Lidia Bastianich GP'17 and Angelo Vivolvo preparing a meal for Pope Francis.



A copy of Teach Me To Be Generous, blessed by Pope Francis and returned to Regis.



Left: preparing dinner for the pontiff; Center: the dining room table set for  the next meal; Right: a quick espresso served as an afternoon break for Pope Francis.

Posted: 10/7/15