History tells us that more Italians immigrated to the United States than any other Europeans, and that more came from Sicily than from any other Italian region. With them, too, the Sicilians brought many traditions, customs, and foods that are still popular today.
One such food is the cannoli, a Sicilian pastry dessert. Historically, these “little tubes” were filled with ricotta cheese and eaten before Lent, but today, they come in a variety of iterations and are eaten year round.
Read on to find out more about where to find some of the best cannoli in the U.S.
A West Loop staple, D’Amato’s Bakery sells approximately 1,000 cannoli a week. It’s no wonder. With one of their best-sellers, they’ve also chosen to make a sweet thing even sweeter: Check out their chocolate cannoli, which is a delicious, fried shell coated in bittersweet chocolate and then generously filled with sweet ricotta cream. Chopped pistachios coat the ends and make this crunchy treat one of Chicago’s best. For those interested in an atypical approach to the cannoli, try the shop’s “Big Cannoli.” Essentially, it’s one giant cannolo stuffed with approximately 40 mini cannoli.
This late-night pastry shop wins points for both its embrace of time-honored Italian traditions and its practicality — gluten-free cannoli, anyone? The cannoli with Piccione cream — “a lighter twist on the original” — is one of the standouts here, but the shop offers special seasonal flavors for those looking to go way outside the cannoli box. Such offerings include “Gooey Butter” and “Chocolate Mint Brownie Chunk,” which don’t disappoint.
New York City
Escape the hustle and bustle of Little Italy and Chinatown by stopping in this dessert shop, which, despite its unpretentious nature, has been open since 1973 and therefore must be doing something right. “Baby John” DeLutro, the owner of the family business, and who was born and raised in Little Italy, says he makes the “best cannoli on the planet.” With flaky shells and rich, ricotta cream, his cannoli make Caffe Palermo one of New York’s premier dessert destinations.
If one of the cons of Mike’s Pastry shop is the ever-present line spilling out of the swinging doors, then one of the pros is that once inside, you are reassured you have the same taste as celebrities: Photos fill the walls, and Bill Clinton seems to be a particular favorite. Here, $3.50 will get you a chocolate-dipped shell with chocolate ricotta and chocolate chips, but you can choose from a variety of flavors including pistachio and hazelnut. Another bonus? Shells at Mike’s are about as big as they come in this cannoli town.
Italian delicacies at Holy Cannoli — self-referred to as the “champagne of desserts” — are anything but traditional. Here, cannoli are remixed. Particular favorites are the “Seattleite,” with espresso cream filling; the “Go Bananas,” which has banana cream filling and vanilla cookie; and the “Downtown Janet,” with buttered rum-raisin cream and almonds. As an added bonus, this Belltown destination is within walking distance of one of Seattle’s greatest landmarks, the Space Needle.
Maria’s Pastry Shop
Down the street from Mike’s, its North End neighbor, Maria’s is a quiet, unassuming shop — here, not judging the book by its cover is the first lesson in order. Plain, chocolate and chocolate-dipped shells line the glass counter inside the store, but fresh shells are typically retrieved from the back, generously filled with sweet ricotta and given a dash of powdered sugar.
In Cleveland’s historic Little Italy, you’ll find no shortage of Italian foods and desserts on par with the originals in their homeland — even famed chef Mario Batali calls the area “one of the 10 great places to discover Italy in America.” Look no further than Corbo’s for your sweets. This bakery and café has been family-owned for more than 50 years and specializes in Italian pastries. All cannoli here are made-to-order, and the shop’s freshness shines in every bite.