So last time I had us in Boston’s North End and we were finished with lunch. Now, we were headed for...a cannoli!
What’s that you say? You don’t know what a cannoli is? Oh. My. Gosh. Everyone knows what a cannoli is, don’t they? Or they should, anyway...
Just in case you have never encountered the wonder and joy of a cannoli, it is an Italian pastry. And to be precise, and here quoting Wikipedia, cannolis are “tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling containing ricotta—a staple of Sicilian cuisine....They range in size from 9 to 20 centimetres (3+1⁄2 to 8 in). In mainland Italy, they are commonly known as cannoli siciliani (Sicilian cannoli).”(1)
They are absolutely delicious, in my humble opinion, and should form the basis of every evening’s repast. Indeed, one of the few things that makes it possible for us to live in Texas, so far removed from all things North Endish, was the discovery that our local HEB grocery store makes them regularly in its bakery. (Oh, thank God!)
Anyway, the are sweet, but not sickeningly so. I prefer mine with plain ricotta. Some people prefer them with chopped fruit or chocolate chips. Some people, with greater delicacy than I possess, eat them with forks. I just pick ‘em up and munch. Everyone to their own preference.
I gather that no one is quite sure where they come from. They were Sicilian, originally, but which part of Sicily and during which era remains under debate. Some suspect that they came with the Arabs during the Emirate of Sicily.(2) Still others believe that they are purely local and were first baked in the southern part of the island for Carnivale, a Lenten festival, like Mardi Gras.
Whatever, Italian immigrants brought them to the United States, and North End bakeries are famous for them. Possibly, the most famous North End bakery is Mike's Pastry on Hanover Street, which has been offering bread, cookies, and cannolis to locals and visitors since 1946.(3)
We used to go to Mike’s Pastry when we lived in Boston. But, we mostly went for take-out. And, so, just as often, we preferred to get our cannolis in the North End, at cafes, and eat them in place, as it where. There were several such shops, but we sort of default to Caffe Vittoria, also on Hanover Street.(4) As a rule, we drift there after a meal and order cappuccinos and cannolis. It is a lovely way to end an afternoon.
About The Photos: Two today. First, the Caffe Vitoria, an interior shot, but I’ve tried to make it look like a painting.
I have several excellent memories of the cafe. It’s always full of tourists, of course, but then, I *am* a tourist, so that just means I feel at home there.
I recall once being there during the run up to the World Cup. Italy’s team was on a screen over the bar, and the room was full of ardent fans...including several Europeans, on vacation to the USA, but finding their way here to watch the home team in action. That was fun. It really was.
Anyway, we found ourselves automatically moving in the direction of the Paradiso and soon had our coffee and pastry. That was followed by a pleasant few minutes of eating pastry, drinking coffee, and eavesdropping on our fellow patrons, and, now and then, on the waitstaff.
Finally, and reluctantly, we came to the last cannoli crumb, and realized it was time to go. We gathered up our belongings, and exited into the street, where the crowds were, as always, streaming on their myriad ways.
And as we walked toward the T-station, I looked around me...and I wondered...
What will be the future of the North End?
And will I, in any way, like it?
More to come.
Second, Martha and I taking a selfie during the winter of 2019. Believe it or not, after several months of a brutal Texas heatwave, we’re really hoping for some more of this kind of weather.
1. “Cannoli,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannoli
2. “Emirate of Sicily,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emirate_of_Sicily
3. See Mike’s webpage here: https://www.mikespastry.com/
4. Caffe Vittoria webpage is here: https://www.caffevittoria.com/
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