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David Lissner
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2011 St. Joseph’s Day Tables: Where to feast in Chicago

Altare di San Giuseppe at Alta Villa, which will host a St. Joseph's Day dinner dance.

Altare di San Giuseppe at Alta Villa, which will host a St. Joseph's Day dinner dance.

St. Patrick gets most of the hoopla, but St. Joseph has the best food.

In a custom born centuries ago in Sicily, Chicago Roman Catholics will celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph this weekend with an array of charitable events. Legend has it that during the 9th century a terrible drought and famine gripped the island. The Sicilians prayed for relief to their patron, St. Joseph. When at last the skies opened, sending down life-giving water and restoring crops, the grateful people celebrated together, setting out tables with an assortment of foods they had harvested, creating altars honoring the saint on his day, March 19, and distributing food to the less fortunate.

The custom continues to this day. In Chicago, although it doesn’t quite rival St. Patrick’s Day or Paczki Day in popularity, a large population of folks who trace their roots to Sicily and Southern Italy observe the tradition. Some feed the poor directly, such as Chef Giuseppe Scurato of Ceres’ Table in Uptown, who will provide lunch tomorrow to homeless people from the Cornerstone Community Outreach shelter. More typically, groups host large community banquets called St. Joseph’s Tables, open to everyone, with donations to charity collected from those who can afford to pay.

Because the holiday occurs during Lent, the meals are often meatless. Traditional foods include pastries called zeppole or sfinge di San Giuseppe.

Following is a list of 2011 St. Joseph’s Day feasts around the Chicago area. Unless otherwise noted, events call for a free-will donation to charity and reservations are not required.

Friday, March 18

  • 4:30 p.m., St Joseph’s Table sponsored by St. Raphael the Archangel Church, Antioch Township Office, 1625 Deep Lake Road, Lake Villa. Info: (847) 395-3474. Pizza, pasta, fish, salads, vegetables and Italian and Polish desserts, donated by area restaurants and prepared by parishioners. Everyone who attends will receive lucky fava beans and prayer cards.

  • 5:30 p.m. Mass followed by 6 p.m. St. Joseph Table, St. Joseph Catholic Church, 4801 Main St., Downers Grove. Info: (630) 964-0216. The meal includes pastas, breads, cakes and cookies.

  • 6 p.m., St. Joseph’s Eve Table, Polish Women’s Alliance of America, Edison Park (Lower Level, 6643 N. Northwest Hwy, Chicago), $18, $5 for children under 10. Info: (847) 384-1200.

Saturday, March 19

  • Lunch and dinner, St. Joseph’s Day deals, Go Roma, Gold Coast and other locations. The chain will donate 10 percent of net proceeds from the day’s sales to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Diners named Joseph, Joe or Josephine will receive a free entree and beverage. Facebook fans can print out and bring in a coupon for $3 off.

  • 3:30 p.m., St. Joseph’s Table sponsored by St. Eugene Parish, Shaunessy Center, Norwood Park (5222 N. Canfield Ave., Chicago). Info: (773) 775-6659.

  • 6:30 p.m., St. Joseph’s Day Dinner Dance, Alta Villa Banquets, Addison, $50 (benefits Holy Rosary Church and the American Cancer Society). The evening features a blessing of the table by Bishop Lawrence Sabatini, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres buffet, sit-down dinner and dancing until midnight with music from L’Altra Faccia del Peccato. Reservations suggested.

  • 4:30 p.m., St. Joseph’s Day Mostaccioli Dinner, St. James Parish, 140 North Ave., Highwood, $8, children $4. Info: Denise Tigges, (847) 681-1747; Pat Mocogni, (847) 433-0707; Nancy Carani, (847) 432-1155; or Lil Bolek (847) 644-5129. Dinner with meat sauce, garden salad, fresh bread, hot and cold drinks, Italian ice and other desserts.

  • 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., St. Joseph Table dinner, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, 1500 Brookdale Road, Naperville. Info: (630) 355-8980.

  • 5 p.m., St. Joseph’s Table, St. Domitilla Parish, 4940 Washington St., Hillside. Info: (708) 449-8430.

  • 5 p.m. Mass followed by St. Joseph’s Table, St. Albert the Great Catholic Church, 5555 State Road, Burbank. Info: (708) 423-0321. Dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, casseroles, meatless dishes, salad and dessert, plus a bake sale.

  • 5 p.m. Mass followed by St. Joseph’s Day feast, St. Robert Bellarmine Church, Portage Park (4646 N. Austin Ave., Chicago). Info: (773) 777-2666, $5 donation suggested. Spaghetti dinner and bake sale. The bake sale continues Sunday.

  • 6 p.m., St. Joseph Day International Table, Our Lady of the Brook, 3700 Dundee Road, Northbrook. Info: (847) 272-5686. Potluck supper prepared by parishioners — bring a dish for eight to 10 to share.

  • 6:30 p.m., St. Joseph’s Table, Italo-American Soccer Club, 7209 W. Grand Ave, Elmwood Park. Info: (708) 456-5945.


Sunday, March 20

  • 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., St. Joseph’s Table, St. Domitilla Parish, 4940 Washington St., Hillside. Info: (708) 449-8430.

  • 10 am Mass followed by St. Joseph’s Sweet Table, St. Patrick Catholic Church Parish Center, 950 W. Everett Road, Lake Forest. Info: Jo Ann Bednar, (847) 361-3224.

  • 10:30 a.m. Mass followed by St. Joseph Table, St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church, Bridgeport (1039 W. 32nd St., Chicago). Info: (773) 927-6646,

  • 11 a.m. Mass followed by noon St. Joseph’s Table sponsored by Societa San Giovanni Bosco, Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 1101 N. 23rd Ave., Melrose Park. Info: (708) 417-7810. A live Holy family presentation features.

  • 11 a.m. Mass and blessing by Rev. Richard N. Fragomeni, followed by “The Bountiful Feast,” Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, Little Italy (1224 W. Lexington St., Chicago). Info: (312) 421-3757.

  • 11:30 a.m. Mass followed by St. Joseph’s Table, St. Tarcissus Church, Norwood Park (6020 W. Ardmore Ave., Chicago). Info: (773) 763-8228.

  • 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., free zeppole with lunch and dinner, Quartino, River North. The restaurant will offer zeppole, cream-filled fritters dusted with powdered sugar traditionally eaten in celebration of St. Joseph’s Day, to customers at lunch or dinner.

  • Noon, St. Joseph’s Table, Immaculate Conception Church, Providence Hall, Norwood Park (7211 W. Talcott Ave., Chicago). Info: (773) 763-2839. The table offers meatless ethnic dishes, vegetables, omelets, pastas, fish, breads, pastries and cookies prepared by parishioners.

  • Noon Mass, followed by 1 p.m. St. Joseph’s Table sponsored by Calabresi in America Organization, Casa Italia, Stone Park. Info: Mary, (708) 562-2721

  • 1 p.m., St. Joseph’s Table, Our Lady of Ransom Parish, Paluch Hall, 8300 Greenwood Ave., Niles. Info: (847) 823-2550. Meatless dishes, pizzas, frittatas, salads, desserts and beverages.

  • 1 p.m., St. Joseph’s Table, St. Pascal Catholic Church, Portage Park (3935 N. Melvina Ave., Chicago). Info: (773) 725-7641. Meatless meal.

  • 1 to 5 p.m., 10th Anniversary Taste of Italy Pasta Dinner in honor of St. Joseph, St. Julie Billiart Parish, Devine Center, 7399 W. 159th St., Tinley Park, 10 in advance for adults, $12 at door; $5 for children. Info: 708-429-6767, ext. 210. Meal includes salad, rolls, pasta and meatball, desserts.

  • 2 p.m., St. Joseph’s Table sponsored by Societa Culturale di Baharia in Chicago, Casa Italia, Stone Park. Info: Teresa, (773) 593-6284.

  • 3 p.m., St. Joseph’s Table, Mazzini Verdi Club, 9230 Belmont Ave., Franklin Park. Info: (847) 671-0055, $30.

  • 3 p.m. St. Joseph’s Table, Mary Queen of Heaven Church, 5300 W. 24th St., Cicero. Info: (708) 656-0074.