I confess, it’s been two weeks since I ate my last connoli, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It was in a small dessert shop in Boston’s North End Neighborhood. I did it with my mom, but we didn’t share!
While often one may enjoy an authentic Italian dessert at the same restaurant where lunch or dinner was had, some places don’t offer dessert. In the North End, one can find shops that specialize in baked sweets, gelato and pastries for takeout or sit-down delight.
First we stepped into Mike’s Pastry Shop on Hannover Street. There were three separate lines, and each was moving slowly. We saw that it was going to be a while before our turn would come up at the counter; what happened to the cafe area with seats?! Mom said she preferred not to have to eat and stroll. That seemed OK by me after our efficient footwork starting in the North End then to Government Center, Downtown Crossing, The Financial District and looping back again.
With a determination to sit-down for our sweets, we backed out, and walked down a few paces to Vittoria Caffe.
Within this dessert cafe I have fond memories of late night dates over espressos sipped with small bites of shared cannolis. Memories from long, long ago when one could smoke indoors, and customers did. On this beautiful summer day we were expecting open windows and fresh air. Unwittingly, the staff was keeping the floor-to-ceiling windows shut tight like clamshells. The air felt stale. No matter how tasty the delicacies would surely be, and although I admired the gleaming antique steam pump espresso machines, we were in search of connoli to be served with a breeze.
Again we moved on down the same street. A bit further was our landing place: Gelateria and Connoli Factory .
Did it help that the girls behind the counter couldn’t explain that we were supposed to choose from the flavors under the glass case? No. I was nonplussed. Never had I seen connoli fillings, like at an ice-cream parlour; I only knew of plain sweetened ricotta. I thought we were looking at gelato under the glass! Then the young man looked up from the World Cup soccer match on the TV and showed how he would paddle a chosen filling into an empty pastry shell; the dots in my head connected. Ach-so: Cannolo!
We declined the extra sprinkling of nuts, chocolate chips and powdered sugar. Into plain tube-shaped pastry shells (we could have had chocolate dipped) we had a separate flavor paddled into each end. They were cold fillngs, more dense than than a frozen custard or ice-cream, and richer in the mouth-feel. The shells were crispy. Holy Cannoli!