Cannoli – Sweet Lord, Palermo, Just Stop It

Make your own: Connoli Tubes

One of our Palermitano readers recently told us that although the most famous nickname for the city is la Felice (“The Happy One”), Palermo is more well known around Sicily as la Licca (“The Glutton”). I think both apply. As I munch down yet another cannolo, I am both happy and gluttonous. Yes, I know I’ve got cream smeared across my face and cookie flakes on my shirt. So what? BURP

Cannolo is the singular, cannoli the plural. And, as I’ve recently learned, you should never say cannolis. The word means “little tube”, which in this case is a sweet, fried wafer, rolled up and filled with thick, white ricotta-based cream. Tube-shaped, filled with white cream; don’t let it spoil your enjoyment of the treat, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that cannoli were originally a symbol of fertility, eaten during Carnival.

Cannoli are insanely delicious, and it’s no wonder that they’ve become popular throughout the world. Though you can find cannoli in the USA, America’s little mini-sticks don’t compare with the mammoth tubes of Palermo (I know, I know, the “symbol of fertility” and all, but let’s not read innuendo into my words). Palermo is still the best place in the world to try them out. But even within the city, quality varies widely. Some of the more touristy places don’t use actual ricotta, or leave them sitting around for hours, which ruins the cookie’s crispiness.

We had our introduction to cannoli at Bakery Rosciglione, near the Ballarò Market, and still haven’t tasted better. The cream and the wafers are made fresh in this tiny shop, and when we expressed curiosity, the baker ushered us into the kitchen, so we could see how he prepared them fresh. (Yes, he took us into the back room to show us his cannoli. Get your mind out of the gutter!)

So, cannoli. Yet another Palermitano attack upon our fitness level. You win, Sicily, we give up. We’ll just give ourselves over to gluttony.

Location of Rosciglone on our Palermo Map

Pizza Cook Books

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Federico

    And you haven’t tried yet cannoli in Piana degli Albanesi and Dattilo… bigger, more gorgeous… mmmh!

  2. An Expat in Spain

    Yum! This post reminds me of the North End in Boston… When you say they don’t compare to the States, does that include the North End in Boston? You guys lived there once, too. Are you saying these canoli are even better than Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry? (We always preferred Modern to Mike’s.)

    1. Mike Powell

      I have to confess that we were infrequent visitors to the North End. I never had a cannolo before coming to Italy, but we’ll have to do some comparison-munching the next time we’re in Boston

    2. Rich

      First of all, I don’t know how I found myself reading your question regarding cannoli quality, but…  As for cannoli in the United States, Mike’s and Modern are both very good but they do not compare to those in Sicily for a variety of reasons: The ricotta in Sicily is made from sheep’s milk, not cows milk.  Sheep’s milk ricotta has a much lighter and creamier consistency than cow’s milk.  Also, unlike cow’s milk ricotta, sheep’s milk ricotta doesn’t seem to get pasty with age.  The shells of Sicilian cannoli are deep fried in lard.  Although not good for your arteries, lard gives the shells an amazing taste and makes then both crispy and flaky at the same time.  And last but not least, practically all of the good pastry shops in Sicily fill their cannoli on-the-spot.  Still, if you are dying to tast an authentic Sicilian cannolo in the United States, go to Villabate Alba in Brooklyn.  These guys are off-the-boat and import their ricotta or milk (sheep’s milk) from Sicily     

  3. Romano Catania

    I agree with Federico: you should totally taste the oversize cannoli from Dattilo… Absolutely the most delicious, perfect cannoli you will ever eat in your life. Here, I just gave you one more reason to come back to Sicily. 😉

    1. Mike Powell

      Of all the many reasons we have to return to Sicily, giant cannoli have definitely got to be at the top of the list! 

      1. Romano Catania

        I can assure you it will be totally worth the trip… but at this point I’m sure you know it by yourself! 🙂

  4. Silvia

    Hi,I lived in Boston for 1 year. I went to north end just to feel home…I’m sicilian. mike’s pastry’s cannoli are not so bad…but nothing compare to the sicilian ones. Also they have a lot of flavours you can never find in sicily. A real sicilian will never eat an oreo cannoli 😉 baci da catania

  5. Deb

    My Hubby and I were in Taormina for our honeymoon in Sep ’11.  I had what I now consider my first real cannolo/cannoli?.  Yes, I’ve had them before…enjoyed some…not impressed with others…but these…oh THESE were like nothing I’ve ever had before!  I am absolutely certain there were angels in that kitchen sprinkling in halo glitter or something extra special because they were the best cannoli I’ve ever had…EVER.  I did not get the name of the bakery…and as it was in the main part of town, it may have been touristy.  So, if it was indeed touristy and possibly not as wonderful as a more “authentic” bakery…then I don’t think I could handle all the goodness an “authentic” bakery would produce!  Jim wants to go back to Taormina to see the ruins again.  I’d go back for the cannoli alone!  Divine!

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