John and I are as choosy with our Italian desserts as we are with our entreés (like pizza). I happen to be a tiramisú snob, and have turned up my nose at quite a few slices, while John will down well-made panna cotta like an Electrolux that’s just had its filter cleaned.
But the cannoli….Ahh…the cannoli. A perfect cannoli is a study in contradictions, a perfect blend of opposites in flavor and texture. As the holding device, the shell represents a challenge: It must be crispy and ever-so-slightly sweet. NEVER chewy or dense. With lots of airy holes for extra crunch.
The cream presents another challenge. First, it has to be ricotta cream. I know….I know, you may be thinking, “Who would fill cannoli with anything else?” If you asked that question, you’re hired!
You might be surprised to learn how many whipped cream filled cannoli I have encountered. And put down after the first bite, because that’s just wrong, people. WRONG.
Assuming that the filling is ricotta based, it should also be rich, thick in consistency and have a definite sweetness that is not overpowering. Light and airy are not characteristics of the filling – those belong to the shell.
Now a final word of caution: NO PRE-FILLING the cannoli shells. If you walk into a bakery and there are a stack of filled cannoli in the glass display case, don’t order them. They could have been sitting there since the Dharma Project’s last food drop.
The shells should be lined up, empty awaiting your order. Then, and only then, do they get their ricotta cream piped into them. This is because cannoli filling will make the super crispy and light shell a soggy, dense mess. True story.
As for toppings or additions to the cream filling, these are traditional and definitely allowed. I’m not a huge fan of succade, or chopped, candied citrus peel, I find that they don’t add much in terms of flavor and are just interruptions in the cream filling. Like speed bumps. I do, however approve of mini chocolate chips, either integrated into the cream or sprinkled on top. These do add flavor, and because they are firm, but not crunchy, an extra layer of texture. Pistachios often make an appearance, as does a nice dark chocolate dip. However, prepping the chocolate dipped varieties usually means pre-filling, so I’m not the biggest fan of this option.
OK, I think I’m done with my pastry-related tirade. Are you still here? I hope so, because Rocco’s cannoli are definitely worth the trip. To the West Village. In the pouring rain. And John doesn’t walk very quickly. So, if you’re going with him, you should know that.
Rocco’s has a lot of other treats that we didn’t sample. We went straight for the cannoli. But you might like to try some of these:
They sure looked tasty.
After navigating the somewhat confusing line (it seems that people just queue up in no particular order, and there’s no number system), we noticed the empty cannoli shells lined up in the back awaiting their creamy centers – a very good sign. We ordered 2, and got them to go.
Probably we should have enjoyed them at on of Rocco’s cafe tables. Instead, we ventured out into the pouring rain (did I mention that John walks slowly?) and to the PATH train to head back to Hoboken.
Both John and I are very impatient when it comes to food. We want to eat it NOW. Whatever it is. Now works. The train unfortunately arrived immediately, even as I was unwinding the intricately-laced bakers twine on the box.
John: “I have never wanted the train to NOT arrive before….” This said as I reluctantly returned the white box to its plastic bag.
Once on the train, all bets were off. Especially the ones saying “No Eating or Drinking on Path Trains”. John dove into his cannoli as I attempted to take photos of them on the moving train. Please keep in mind that we are professionals. You shouldn’t try this at home. Or anywhere.
I held off on eating mine as I wanted to take a nice glamor shot of it once back at my apartment (see the first photo for evidence of self-restraint). But I was curious, so I asked John some questions.
Me: “How is it?”
John: “Great.” (You might not think it, but this is actually very high praise from John).
Me: “Ummm…Could you give me more details? How’s the filling?”
John: “Awesome, man.”
Once I could sample mine in the comfort and stability of my non-moving apartment, I could tell that John was correct. It was a great cannoli. The shell was fried to perfection, and I detected a hint of cinnamon in the mix that added a subtle flavor. The cream was indeed awesome: a ricotta cream with very tiny and sparingly applied succade and topped with mini chocolate chips. I may have wanted the cream a bit thicker, but the flavor was true to form. The shell even maintained its crispiness throughout our soggy walk home, shattering as I bit into it (this is supposed to happen).
Rocco’s: a great place for awesome cannoli. Man.
243 Bleecker Street
New York, 10014