For just one day, the kitchen of the Vatican hotel where Pope Francis lives went kosher.
Rabbi Jaakov Spizzichino oversaw the scrupulous cleaning of countertops, the boiling of utensils and the heating of the oven to render it fit for cooking kosher.
The occasion? A four-course lunch Francis hosted for a dozen Argentine rabbis last week. It was another sign of his close friendship with Jews, despite some complaints in Israel that he’s giving the Jewish state short-shrift on his upcoming trip to the Holy Land.
For the January 16 luncheon, the Vatican pulled out all the stops as Francis hosted Skorka and about 15 other rabbis from Buenos Aires who came to Rome to visit their old friend. It turned to Ba’Ghetto, one of the best kosher restaurants on the other side of the Tiber River, to cater the affair.
A key issue was the oven: An oven in a non-kosher kitchen must sit idle for 24 hours and be cleaned and turned on full blast for an hour, Spizzichino said. So on the morning of the luncheon, Dabush, some restaurant workers and Spizzichino set to work early: scorching the oven and burners, scouring the kitchen countertops and covering them with aluminum foil to prevent the kosher food from being contaminated. They boiled and sterilized the big pots used for making pasta and set the tables with Ba’Ghetto’s own plates and utensils.
“It was a kitchen that they rarely used, so it was very clean,” Spizzichino said.
The menu was heavily fish-based: Antipasti of deep-fried artichokes; baked sardines with endive and tangy, grilled zucchini. The pasta course featured two selections: Gnocchi with rocket, tomato and pine nuts, and hand-made trofie, or little twists of pasta with sea bass and tomatoes. The main course had two choices of fish: Baked turbot wrapped with vegetables or the house specialty, salt cod with tomatoes, pine nuts, grapes and potatoes.
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