Cannoli Bliss--Romolo's in San Mateo
My original intention was to check out the current baklava selection at AlHana, but in the search for parking, I noticed that Romolo's Ice Cream & Cannoli Factory was open. (It had been closed during all my prior visits to the area, so I thought it had been permanently shuttered.)
So of course I checked it out. There was only one group of people (sipping coffee out of old fashioned floral china cups) and a man leaving the shop as I entered. But they all seemed to be speaking Italian to the proprietors. Good sign, I thought. And when I saw empty, chocolate-lined cannoli shells, ready for filling, and no pre-filled cannoli, save the ice cream filled ones in the freezer, I had to have one. I walked out of there with a cannoli, an ice cream tartufo, and a slim wedge of cassata. The cannoli was filled just after I ordered it.
Ate the cannoli as soon as I got home. Sheer bliss. Both the shell and the filling were excellent. The creamy filling had just a few bits of candied fruit--enough for the occasional flavor surprise--and the chocolate-lined shell was very light and clean-tasting. Halfway through the cannoli, I found myself checking my watch, just to see if there was enough time to make a second cannoli run before the store closed at 5. I like this cannoli better than Biscotteria's (in Redwood City), better than Dianda's, and definitely better than Stella Pastry's.
Late tonight, I raided the freezer and ate the tartufo. It, too, was thoroughly enjoyable: a half-sphere of vanilla ice cream, with a knob of chocolate ice cream in the center, completely enrobed by a thin chocolate shell. It was like a grown-up Dilly Bar!
I can hardly wait until Tuesday. Romolo's is closed on Sundays and Mondays, and only opens until 5 p.m. the rest of the week.
Not only does the powdered sugar make a mess of dark colored clothing, but remember to breathe slowly when the cannoli is near your mouth so you don't choke on a self-induced cloud of sweet goodness! I always lean over the tiny tables at Romolo's and slowly wolf down my cannolis.
re: Peter Yee
Well, I've been known to have one chocolate and one plain. Or one ice cream and one of the others. :-)
I'm not much of a coffee drinker, so I can't tell you how the espresso compares to other places.
The tiramisu I do like, although they don't serve it in individual portions -- they have a small and a large, both which are best shared.
Just got back from what is probably my 5th or 6th visit since the original post. My sister, who used to live in NYC, was with me and we blissed out on cannoli and affogato. Sis says the cannoli is even better than Ferrara's in NY. (I'm sure Romolo's is now on her already long list of "must-eats in the Bay Area" whenever she comes to visit. Occasions on which I consequently gain a pound a day.)
And the affogato was one of those wonderfully synergistic things the Italians do so well! The vanilla ice cream was good not great; the espresso was very good; but the two together were absolutely wonderful! My sister remarked on the rich, caramel-ly effect of the ice cream and coffee together. We practically licked the cups clean.
This is the perfect place to come to recharge your sugar batteries, and to grab a bit of quiet and sanity in between panic shopping binges.
I work in San Mateo, so checking on Romolo's isn't that hard for me. And they do take some long vacations (after all it's a real mom and pop place, and mom and pop aren't getting younger), but are generally open according to their posted hours. Call ahead to make sure they are open. They're worth it.
I was just at Romolo's this afternoon. After over a month out of town, I HAD to have my cannoli and affogatto fix. The affogatto is the absolute perfect afternoon treat. Peter is absolutely right: Romolo's is worth the effort. Give it another shot.
I asked the proprietress if they close from April to October, and she looked bewildered. She told me that they take a 2 month vacation every year from mid-June to mid-September. The rest of the year, they are open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Except for major holidays. If you want to be absolutely sure they are open before going down there, call them at (650) 574 0625. They are at 81 37th St., San Mateo.
And oh, yes, they will be featured in Sunset Magazine's April issue.
Nice to know Romelo's will be open year round.
A mention about the ice cream
" I enjoyed a nontraditional double scoop: One of cantaloupe, and one of torrone (vanilla ice cream studded with candied citrus peels and almonds). Both were excellent, although I'm not sure I'd recommend them together.
One friend tried the passion fruit, which had ribbons of fruit streaking the vanilla, the other stuck with cookies and cream. Both got thumbs up."
This has a nice history of the shop which opened in 1967 as an ice cream shop
"Many say cannolis are at the heart of the store’s success. They moved into cannolis because, Angela said, “they’re Sicilian, like us. Also, at the time we opened our business, no one else around here was making them.”
Angela makes each cannoli by hand, carefully filling the dark golden shell with real ricotta cheese, which she often makes herself. "
Romolo's Ice Cream Spumoni and Cannoli Factory
81 37th Ave, San Mateo, CA