The world was shocked and very surprised when Pope Benedict XVI announced yesterday he is “retiring” from his duties as head of the Roman Catholic Church and leaving the Vatican. No pope has taken such an action in nearly 700 years – and then only in times of great conflict.
Among the many, many questions that such a decision rises is where will a living Pope reside (not to mention what will his title be). Currently Benedict is planning to retire on February 28th of this year to Castel Gandolfo, the grand historical papal summer palace, located in a small town of Castello about 15 miles southeast of Rome while he waits for his permanent Vatican apartments to be made ready.
Castello is a small town of just over 8,000 citizens perched above Lake Albano and is considered by many world travelers one of the most beautiful small cities in Italy.
As you might guess, many of the small town’s residents serve in and/or work at the papal establishment that commands the heights above the lake. The religious property include 2 palaces (Papal and Barberini), apartment housing for 21 inhouse servants, an electrical plant, star observatory (Galileo would be happy), professional offices, farm buildings and animal stables.
Also contained in the complex are buildings in the Villa Cybo, set aside for the religious community of the Maestre Pie Filippini and their school, and two cloistered convents, housing the Poor Clare and Basilian Nuns.
So the Pope, as you can see, will not be exactly alone. As a world leader, many people, despite his stated desire to maintain a private life of quiet prayer, will want to seek his counsel and advice.
After meeting with the Pope, his many future visitors will not be left without aid and comfort for in Castello there is a remarkable restaurant that has been offering hospitality since 1882: The Ristorante Pagnanelli.
This legendary restaurant is located next door to the Pope’s own villa and is now run by the fourth generation of the Giovanni Pagnanelli Family. Today Aurelio Mariani and his wife Jane along with their four sons continue a tradition that includes both heritage and innovation.
And if, success is declared by how the rich and famous come quietly to dine on the remarkable cuisine here, than Pagnanelli can be very proud indeed of their guest list.
Besides the many heads of state and princes of the church that have confidentially booked a balcony table overlooking the Lake, such thoughtful artists as Daniel Day Lewis and Robert De Niro have greatly enjoyed dining here.
The view and the proximity to the Papal Estates certainly are attractions. But what may additionally draw guests to the Pagnanelli dining room is their culinary philosophy, which rests on two cardinal points.
First, every ingredient must be outstanding and purchased whenever possible from local farmers and producers, not to mention those sourced from the family’s own farms. Pagnanelli also changes their menu monthly to flow and connect with the seasons.
Second, while honoring Italian culinary history, they are not afraid to seek innovation combinations, such as Ostriche Fin de Clair e Ostriche Noblesse and La Nassa dei Crostacei con Aragosta, Astice, Scampi e Mazzancolle. (Diners' Alert: the menu is only available in Italian).
In short, this remarkable restaurant have endured, high on a mountain top, for over 100 years by never fearing the new while also respecting past traditions.
Perhaps this wise blend of both the tested and the innovative is a wise theme for the College of Cardinals in nearby Rome to consider as they seek to pick a new pope for the 21st Century.
It’s a philosophy that any wise chef knows will enable his restaurant to grow and to be part of modern life. This same philosophy of the old and the new could also guide and strengthen the contemporary church. Let us hope the Cardinals come to understand the feast that both life and spirituality can and should offer to all.
Post Note, February 13, 2013:
Vatican spokesman have revealed to the world’s waiting press that the final residence of Rome’s retiring Pope will be the Convent of Mater Ecclesiae – minus the good Sisters of the Community of the Visitation. The 20 year old four story building and gardens are central located right behind St Peter’s grand Basilica.
It will contain a complete home residence as well as contemporary chapel, kitchen gardens and a roof terrace overlooking Rome itself. Benedict, once dubbed the "Prada Pope" for his fondness for fine red designer loafers and haute-couture crafted vestments, directed that customized renovation on the Convent begin in November of last year.
While it is unknown what activities the Pope is planning to address in his retirement, it is well known he likes to stroll in sunny gardens. At Mater Ecclesiae he will have a chance to see the eggplant, zucchini and other vegetables planted by the Sister in the Convent's vegetable garden prior to their gracious departure.
Nearby are also Spanish orange and lemon trees, whose fruit has been used in making the Vatican's legendary maria marmalade. One can only wonder if this Pope, who left before death's deadline, will ponder the complex nature of his legacy as he breakfasts on tea and toast high in his secluded garden world.
Post Note, February 14, 2013:
Of interest to Vatican watchers was the information released today that the charming Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, the Pope's devoted private secretary, will remain his holiness' aide, residing with him at the renovated Convent of Mater Ecclesiae on the Vatican grounds.
Eyebrows were, however, raised when it was also announced that Monsignor Gaenswein will also serve as Perfect of the new pope's household.
This position has long been regarded as that of gatekeeper as the Perfect maintains the pope's calendar and so controls who has access to the papal throne.
One can only wonder if the new pope will also be a fan of 'marmalade' or if he is allowed to prefer a different 'jam'.
Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2013