Pope: Now in cheese form

Pope cheese will be available from Pastifico in mid-September.

THE BIG CHEESE of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, soon will be available in mozzarella, thanks to South Philly's Pastificio Homemade Pasta Co., which is preparing blocks of cheese in the shape of Pope Francis in advance of his visit next month to Philadelphia.

Pope cheese will be available from Pastifico in mid-September. Gallery: Pope: Now in cheese form

"There's no doubt about it, it's definitely cheesy," said Anthony Messina, co-owner of Pastificio.

According to Messina, the cheese pope will stand about 6-inches tall, weigh a little more than a pound and will sell for $20.

Pastificio, on Packer Avenue near 15th Street, is already taking preorders and expects to have the cheese pope on the shelves by the second week of September.

Messina, who co-owns Pastificio with Frank Sangiuliano, said he was inspired to make the fermented Holy Father by Fox 29 reporter Jenn Frederick, who featured the shop and its Santa Claus-shaped cheese at Christmastime.

"We were live on the air and she said, 'I think you should make pope cheese,' " Messina said.

Heeding Frederick's advice, Messina contacted ceramic artist Larry E. Buss, who created the mold for the cheese pope.

"I try to think of myself as a more serious craftsman, I don't ordinarily do kitsch, but he asked me and this was too kitschy not to do," Buss said. "I thought, 'Well, that would be a lark,' so that's why I did it."

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