I first got my hands on a true, archetypal cannolo in Boston’s Little Italy, where a cannoli turf war has been raging between two very old-school Italian bakeries, Mike’s and Modern, for many, many decades. (For the record, I stand with Modern). That kickstarted a slight addiction to the little Italian flavor bundles, made simply with sweetened ricotta, nestled in a crisp, deep-fried pastry shell, and dusted with powdered sugar. I’m with gangster Peter Clemenza from The Godfather: “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
I scoured the city, looking for the perfect classic cannolo to curb my cravings, hitting spots like Scottie’s Pizza (a solid contender), Roman Candle (too much bittersweet cocoa), and Charlie’s Deli (mediocre at best). But only two Portland eateries had cannoli worth crossing town for.
At this unassuming Belmont food truck, owner Francesca Cucolo has been filling nearly 200 cannoli each week since 2013, piping (and overflowing) the crisp shells to order. Cucolo calls her cannoli “self-proclaimed world famous,” sourced from a secret family recipe. You can actually taste the subtleties of the barely-sweet ricotta, flecked, sparingly, with semisweet chocolate chips. The shell has a crisp cookie texture—stable enough to hold its shape. Down a cup of Caffé Umbria Italian espresso with your cannoli for the full experience. $2.50 each, $10 for 5
Hidden on the dessert menu at this Italian Nob Hill mainstay, behind cult favorites like Wednesday night risotto and lamb meatballs, you’ll find a citrusy take on a classic. Longtime chef Jerry Huisinga fills pastry shells to order with delicate housemade ricotta, which are then zested with lemon and lime and tumbled with candied orange peel. The shell is beautifully flaky and buttery, like a pie crust. It’s dipped 50/50, with one side plastered in Belgian Callebaut semisweet chocolate and the other in chopped pistachios. Even as a traditionalist stickler, I was wooed by Bar Mingo’s punchy take. 2 for $10