Boston is known for its rich history, full of historical landmarks and sites wherever you walk, someone as famous as Paul Revere or John Adams may have walked there too. Along with that history, however, is the heart of where Paul Revere lived, The North End. Think colonial Little Italy full of brick buildings, cobblestone streets, and family owned local eateries. Located just across the Charles River from Charlestown, The North End is full of local Bostonians and Italians. The tourists, however, flock to the northern tip of Boston to enjoy the history including The Old North Church and the food. Italian bakers thrive on perfecting one single baked good- the cannoli.
A cannoli, from the singular cannolo meaning “little tube”, is an Italian pastry in the form of hard tubular shells filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and can contain or be topped with nuts or chocolate chips. There are three well known pastry shops all along the main drag of Hanover Street. Modern Pastry, Caffè Paradiso and Mike’s Pastry.
I have been fortunate to taste all three cannoli’s and all three are very different. Modern Pastry was rather sneaky, slipping into the back perhaps perfectly timing how long it takes to freshly pipe a cannoli. The shell was rather thick and almost cake like, not what you would prefer for a cannoli.
Mike’s is probably the most famous of all three. In the summer a swarm of sweaty, rude tourists flock in the front of the store. You see each pre piped cannoli sitting in a case as you approach the counter. The people are always efficient, trying to serve people as quickly as possible. Although the shell is better than Modern, a pre piped cannoli that has been sitting in a case doesn’t taste as fresh as you wish it could be. But do not worry, I too was fooled by this and admire Mike’s and still enjoy an excellent cannoli from them! There are other treats available, but the array of cannoli’s is simply extravagant. The cannoli’s pictured below:
On my most recent trip home, my parents introduced me to Caffè Paradiso. As soon as you walk in you are transported to Italy, walking into a small cafe where you meet with local friends. They too have a small array of different treats including the favorite tiramisu. But directly in the front and the middle are un piped, perfectly golden cannoli shells. As you sit and wait for your cannoli you see freshly piped ricotta slipping into each end of the shell. Your first bite is exquisite, the fresh sweet ricotta hitting your tongue bursting with memories of home. The shell breaking so delicately the crisp crunch is a sound you will never forget. This cannoli changed my mind, this cannoli became my favorite. The size of the cannoli is important too, Mike’s are so huge you have to eat half and save the rest tomorrow when it’s not as good. Caffè Paradiso’s is just the right size and amount for a perfect little sweet treat. If you end up in Boston be sure to grab the T to the North End and walk up Hanover and test out cannoli’s yourself. This is only my opinion, right?
Caffè Paradiso cannoli