The Feast Day of Padre Pio
Feast Day: September 23
Padre Pio was born in 1887 in Pietrelcina, a town right in the center of Southern Italy, in the region of Campania. He is by far the most popular Saint of this area. I remember in the late 1970’s when the Italian streets were being terrorized by the Red Brigades, hardly any Italian South of Rome would leave their home without carrying a card or photo of Padre Pio on their body.
Padre Pio is a worthy follower of Saint Francis of Assisi. Charity was his calling. He gave himself to the poor, the suffering, and the sick. In later years he committed himself to relieving the pain and suffering of many families in Southern Italy, chiefly through the foundation of the Casa Sollievo della Soferenze, opened in 1956. Padre Pio was canonized by John Paul 11 in 2002, 34 years after his death. September 23 is his feast day.
My family’s hometown is right over the boarder into Puglia, not far from Peitrelcina and very close to San Giovanni Rotonda, the Capuchin Monastery where Father Pio lived and worked for 52 years and died. Since his canonization this still active Monastery has also served as his shrine and holy site. His body is on display here and many walking paths, statues, a beautiful staircase, and contemplative gardens have been designed for all the pilgrims who visit every year. The last time I went to my ancestral town, I decided to visit this shrine myself. The monastery is situated on the Gargano, a gorgeous mountainous region in Northern Puglia that’s known for their rustic food such as wild boar, wild mushrooms, meat ragus, and sausages. After visiting Padre Pio’s beautiful monastery and grounds, I stopped at one of the food trucks set up at the holy site and ordered pork sausages grilled with rosemary branches and served on grilled bread. It was delicious. Here’s my slightly more elaborate take on that simple lunch. It’s a great Southern Italian dish to celebrate Padre Pio’s feast day.
Italian Sausages with Grilled Grapes and Rosemary
Buy two or three Italian pork sausages per person. Place them on a medium grill about 3 or 4 inches from the flame, and grill them, turning them several times, until they’re browned all over and cooked through, about 10 minutes. While the sausages are grilling, place a large handful of seedless red grapes, a few small sprigs of chopped rosemary, a generous drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a few grindings of black pepper on a large piece of aluminum foil. Close up the foil, and place the package on a low-heat area of the grill. Heat just until the grapes are fragrant and starting to soften and give off juice, about 4 minutes. Place the sausages on a serving platter, and pour the grapes on top, along with any juices they’ve thrown off. Give everything a drizzle of fresh olive oil and serve hot with slices of grilled Italian bread that have been rubbed with garlic and brushed with olive oil.
By Erica DeMane, Writer and Chef
Read Erica’s blog: EricaDeMane.com