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Feb 18, 2008 05:18 PM

Best Cannoli in Baltimore?


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  1. I can't see any place beating Vaccaro's on cannoli.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Bob W

      Does Piedigrotta do cannoli? I don't recall seeing them there, but generally speaking, I don't think Vaccaro's holds a candle to Piedigrotta when it comes to Italian pastries.

      1. re: Dmnkly

        If they do have cannolis and you really think they'd be better, I have to try them. I get Vaccaro's cannoli cravings all the time.

        There's a pretty famous bakery place in Boston. It's right near the original location of a well known pizza place (now a semi-chain) in the city. It's late and I can't remember the names but I could fetch them from a friend if need be. He assured me that the bakery is famous (and it was jam packed with people on that weeknight). Their cannoli didn't even come close to Vaccaro's.

        1. re: Wangus

          Mike's Pastry on the north end....I forget the name of the other good place almost across the street from Mike's.

          Vaccaro's are indeed better than Mike's in Boston, IMHO.

          1. re: Wangus

            I live just a couple of blocks away, but I can't get there today. I'll pop into both tomorrow and report back.

      2. I have to agree on Vaccaro's. I've been to a variety of places in America and have always preferred Vaccaro's.

        Just be sure to go to Vaccaro's and not buy them elsewhere. Seems that they went commercial a few years back and the commercial shells you buy at the stores are not the same as the ones from Vaccaro's Little Italy. Go there, have a cannoli, some gelato and a Vaccaro's Cappuccino - just fun dessert dining.

        2 Replies
          1. re: onocoffee

            I have had Vaccaro's cannoli in Little Italy and from the take home in DC's Union Station. Same quality, imo. And with the take home, you get extra filling, so when the shells are gone, a few spoonfulls are left to eat straight.

          2. La Scala in Little Italy, normally not a big cannoli fan...but they are the exception. Call ahead to make sure they are avail!

            6 Replies
            1. re: chefgf25

              They probably get them from Vacarros!

              1. re: hon

                Yep, charmedgirl has it right, recipe is from Mama, they are homemade, outstanding!

              2. re: chefgf25

                No, rumor is they are Mama's secret recipe. Definitely not from Vaccaro's.

                1. re: charmedgirl

                  It's no rumor. Ms. Pina (her name is Josepina but nobody calls her that) makes the cannolis when she is in town. I LOVE the hazelnut ones. Vaccaro's pale in comparrison.

                  1. re: kimmer1850

                    There were three of us, the last time we visted, we each got our own, and seriously contemplated splitting a fourth! I'll have to check out the new renovations over there, at least that will be my excuse:)

                2. re: chefgf25

                  Went to La Scala today and sampled their chocolate and espresso cannolis. They also have lemon and hazelnut for a total of four flavors. I will agree that these were the best cannolis I've ever had. I haven't been to Italy, though.

                  I had emailed them and they responded to let me know that chef/owner Nino's mother was indeed in town and that the cannolis were available for carryout. I called 20 mins ahead of time and the cannolis were packed, bagged, and ready for pickup at the bar. Now for the bad news, guys. These are very expensive cannolis, costing $8/each. (This left me in a peculiar dillema because I'm one of those that tips the bartender for carryout orders, but 5 cannolis set me back a hefty $40+tax and, still in shock from the sticker price, I only tipped a couple bucks.) Interestingly, La Scala's cannolis are a bit different than "regular" cannolis. We devoured them pretty fast but from what I saw the shells were completely cylindrical instead of having the more common openings at the edges. The shells were also very light and crunchy, yet flaky. Maybe they were fried to order? I'd believe it if someone told me so. The filling was probably the most different, though. I actually didn't taste any ricotta!?? Maybe marscapone, but I'm not certain. The texture of the filling was very smooth and light, and very different from what I'm used to. The filling is flavored; the shells for all the flavors are the same. Contrast this with the common case where "chocolate cannoli" usually means a chocolate dipped shell and there is only one filling. (Although, Vaccaro's does have chocolate-flavored filling.) I must say I'm quite intrigued. Did I witness an Italian cannoli, as opposed to an Italian American cannoli?

                  Overall, it's just a bit too expensive for me to have more than once or twice a year, especially considering the adequate alternatives in the area. (Aren't we B'moreans fortunate!) But it's one of those rare cases where you really do get something special for paying the extra premium.

                3. Vaccaro's also has created a new spin on chip n dip: A tub of cannoli cream surrounded by busted up shells.

                  All I can say to that is: brilliant!

                  1. Reporting back.

                    Just did a side-by-side of Vaccaro's and Piedigrotta (both obtained in the original establishments within ten minutes of each other, eaten shortly thereafter at home). They're both very good, and I think an argument could be made for either based on personal preference, but Piedigrotta is my clear favorite and it's almost half the price.

                    I think the shells are pretty much a wash, but the Piedigrotta filling is richer, more evocative of the ricotta upon which it's based (a good thing, IMHO), and has a much nicer texture. It's dense and creamy, whereas the Vaccaro's is wetter and oddly grainy.

                    Piedigrotta's is $2.50, and the comparably sized Vaccaro's large is $4.50... and I'm always happy to pay more for quality (and probably would even at that price if I thought it were the better of the two), but outside of a restaurant context, I think $4.50 for a single cannolo is ridiculous. My favorite place back in Chicago sells them for $1.50.

                    This pretty much reflects my experience across the board so far for Italian baked goods. I think Piedigrotta is off people's radar since it isn't RIGHT on the main drag in Little Italy (even though it's only two blocks away) and they aren't open at night, but for everything I've tried so far, they're cheaper and significantly better.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Dmnkly

                      Have to give it a try sometime. The problem is indeed the hours they keep are hard for me. I like to go down to little italy after work if I'm craving for a cannoli or a few cookies (I work at the Hopkins Hospital) and then drive back up home (live in the county). I usually get to Vaccaro's around 6:30 or so, and Piedigrotta would be closed by then. Maybe I'll do a weekend lunch in Little Italy and stop by.

                      1. re: Dmnkly

                        I prefer Piedigrotta to Vaccaro, too. When Piedigrotta is closed, Vaccaro is fine, they do a very good job on everything that I have ever had there, but Piedigrotta is even better.

                        1. re: Dmnkly

                          Vaccaro's and Piedigrotta are both good, but they will appeal to different tastes. I have to disagree that Piedigrotta's filling is richer. Personally I prefer the flavor of Vaccaro's cannoli precisely because of the richer, denser filling. To me, the main difference is that Piedigrotta's filling is lighter, fluffier, and less sweet. Since I am a sugar fiend, I think most people will disagree with my preference. Try them both.

                          Just a note about Piedigrotta's shells. On display in the store, you will see a basket of lovely, textured cannoli shells. They are a work of art. Literally -- because you don't get those when you order a cannoli there. You get the plain old garden-variety shell.

                          1. re: Lettuce Eat

                            "They are a work of art. Literally -- because you don't get those when you order a cannoli there."

                            Uh... they pulled the shell out of that display and filled mine on the spot.

                            1. re: Lettuce Eat

                              Yeah, same here, they grab my shells out of the display case. Once I even did that annoying thing where I told them exactly which shell I wanted and they had to dig down. (Okay, maybe I always do that.)

                              Not to border on unhealthily obsessive, but I think Piedigrotta's filling is deceptive in the sense that it feels lighter, but it actually fills you up more. I can't eat two Piedigrotta cannolis in one sitting, but I can eat two Vaccaro's cannolis in one sitting. (Not that it's a piece of cake to do so, but I have done so in an emergency.)

                              1. re: Lettuce Eat

                                I wonder why my experience was different. Could it be that the ones on display weren't fresh enough to serve at the end of the day, when I was there? Perhaps I will have to be more assertive next time.

                                1. re: Lettuce Eat

                                  First, I would like to apologize to Lettuce Eat. I hadn't had a cannoli from Piedigrotta since the move, and Lettuce Eat is most correct. No longer do you get a cannoli shell from the display case. I confirmed this from the husband (of the wife/husband owners) yesterday, and today I asked the wife, just to be certain in case only one of them is responsible for the cannolis. Also, Lettuce Eat is correct in that the "fresh" shells that they pull from the back do not look as good as the ones on display. I was told that it's just the realities of frying. But in addition to being noticeably darker, my shells (both yesterday and today) were not as large, nor as appealing in shape or texture as the ones on display. Dmnkly, are you absolutely sure that they pulled yours from the display case? I was told on both occasions that the ones on display are a couple months old. Today I was told that if I want to continue to be annoying, they would pull one from there for me. (The wife said it in a nice way, of course.) That display did not look airtight to me, either.

                                  The taste was still good, although not stellar as usual (both yesterday and today.) The shells were a little bit over-fried. However, the filling was spot on. One thing, their filling does have chocolate chips (like Vaccaro's.) You can ask for it without the chips, and sometimes they are able to accomodate that request. (Just fyi, DiPasquales does not have chocolate chips in the filling.)

                                  1. re: bmorecupcake

                                    I am. Bruna reached in, pulled one out and walked into the back to fill it. But that was about two months ago, so perhaps they were actually fresh at the time :-)