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Ancient Greece and Books Inspired the Pope’s Chef (Now Working in NYC)

There is not an easy exegesis – is it a library or a restaurant? It is both, but it is mainly a library amid the sound of champagne corks. Hmm? How? Please wait! A few people are mentioned in this article, thus, hats off to all the books that were read by them.

You enter the place, in Manhattan, and you see at the bar: Champagne cocktails and caviar! You look at the open plan kitchen, and you see: The fish fillets already sizzling on the grill! And if you decide to sit down and dine, at the end of the meal the dessert will play its sweet Shakespearean role. For myriads of people, it is the finest part of a meal, it will be the divine – the chocolate mousse cake is captivating! It is Chef Salvo’s chocolate mousse and it is phenomenal, having something from Michelangelo’s David…

Looking at the unique dishes that Salvo Lo Castro creates – he has served as the Pope’s Chef – you get an intimate look at his soul (the books he has read during his Vatican City-State years…), but also, at the soul of all the important Italians of the past centuries, from Seneca to Leonardo Da Vinci, and from Dante to Cicero to Umberto Eco. Hmmm.

Salvo, as a Chef, never gives an ‘acid bath’ to the food ingredients like other chefs do. He uses minimum cooking, thus all the ingredients keep their nutrient value and freshness.

If a man ever wanted to sign a contract with God, Salvo Lo Castro is the one who already did it! Not because he was at the Vatican for a number of years, but because he is an exceptionally gifted human being. He was cooking at the Vatican for years, for two sequential Popes (Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI), but during his free time there, he was reading books and manuscripts at the Archivum Secretum Vaticanum. Hypothetically speaking? Absolutely not. He did it! Thus, there, he learned to view the staff and the customers, not as Staff and as Customers, but as books filled with faith and knowledge that propel forward the human civilization… and, of course, every restaurant.

Please now, make a guess as to what kind of books he was reading. Books perhaps on ancient Rome? Or, on cooking? Not at all, on the contrary, he was reading only books on ancient Greece. He studied the ancient Athenian know-how and its fruits: democracy, philosophy, literature, and art. Possibly the Pope’s Chef thought: “If ancient Rome benefited from ancient Greece, why should I not benefit, too.”

And with George Goutakolis, a Greek-American mastermind with natural charisma and connections, in charge of the service, there is no way that a guest will ever say, “I couldn’t flag down a waiter.” The service by Mr. Goutakolis is organized like a Swiss Rolex Day-Date. His foremost experience helps a great deal in the odyssey of the pursuit of great service. The fact that both of them, the Pope’s Chef and Mr. Goutakolis, actually for many years have read a plethora of books on ancient Greece, also helps. This is why, both of them are like “two stones that threw off sparks.”

Mr. Soko, the Albanian owner, not a sunny egoist for sure, is there, too, with humility and humor. Is Mr. Soko reading in his free time books on ancient Greece? Possibly yes, as it is the only way to understand the other Readers, either as members of staff or as valuable customers. A bit of extra reading is in the interest of the future of fine dining.

In the end, of course, a restaurant is nothing without its soul, the Pope’s Chef! The title – description in a way is like the movie title, The Pope’s Exorcist (2023), a recent film starring Russell Crowe which is the new talk of the town! The Pope’s Chef, Salvo Lo Castro, and the rest of the Kitchen Brigade, make you believe in God. The New York City restaurant world is more complete now with the Pope’s Chef around. In a way, our squad of geniuses was incomplete without him! Not any more…

The restaurant is on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and could easily be named Ancient Greece NYC, but is called, La Voglia NYC, which means, ‘desire’, ‘wish’, in Italian. It is full of life, full of artists that never forget their poor performance in school, full of writers, and yes, full of American waiters, too. A new restaurant is not just the new gut of the city, it is the delicious food that is served, that in a way, stimulates it, like the way princesses are restored to life via a kiss! It is the best of what America can offer, eternal taste that will stay forever in your memory, and actually, this is knowledge, too… one day, destined, to become part of a book.

A day in NYC can go from the Pope’s Exorcist movie to the Pope’s Chef’s food! Why not, actually? Hats off to all the Readers of this article…