Perfect cannoli are light and crispy on the outside, smooth and velvety on the inside. It’s one of those signature international recipes that requires a level of passion and finesse to get it just right.
Speaking to the following cannoli artists it was clear that technique and ingredients aren’t taken lightly by the very best. While tracking down the best ingredients and making each cannolo by hand can be a hard slog, thankfully Sydney’s Italian community aren’t going to let the traditions of this Sicilian dish die on our shores.
We’ve tracked down some of the best cannoli in all of Sydney so you can cure your cravings and relive dreams of an Italian summer in our own city.
Haberfield, Five Dock, Bondi
Ask anyone—anyone—where to find the best cannoli in Sydney and their first response is “Papa’s”. Pasticceria Papa enjoys a city-wide reputation for its Italian desserts, particularly its baked ricotta cake and cannoli.
The original ricotta cannoli recipe belongs to Papa himself, that is, the owner, Papa Salvatore. The cannoli are most beloved for the velvety texture of its filling, which comes in three flavours—ricotta, chocolate and vanilla. (I’m told by the team the ricotta is the fan favourite, naturally.)
Papa’s pastry powerhouse has turned its once-modest deli into a chain of café/restaurants, with locations in Haberfield (the original), Five Dock and Bondi. The pasticceria also serves up its goods at the occasional festival or local store. For those closer to western Sydney, I would recommend getting your Papa fix at Campisi Fine Food and Deli in West Hoxton.
Leichardt and Gledswood Hills
This Leichardt institution has been operating for more than 67 years. Founding owner Angelo, a pastry chef from Sicily, migrated in 1949 bringing his family cannoli recipe with him.
“Our cannoli have remained true to our recipe from when we opened in Leichhardt in 1952. The original recipe can even be traced a few generations further back to Sicily,” Manager Andre Portelli says.
Mezzapica only uses the best, fresh ricotta (“never powdered”) to get it as close as possible to a Sicilian original. Like all good cannoli, it is made fresh daily, by hand.
“What sets us apart is that we still hand roll and cook our shells," Portelli adds. "While there are machines that can do it now, we feel like there is something lost in the mechanical process. Each cannoli shell is individual and unique, and the results just can’t be replicated by machine."
On top of its Leichardt home, Mezzapica Cakes opened a second location in Gledswood Hills last year.
Pino’s Dolce Vita
Here’s a great cannoli solution for you south-Sydneysiders.
Kogarah institution Pino’s Dolce Vita reopened late last year following a devastating fire. The highly praised family-owned deli from Pino Tomini Foresti first opened in 1978 and has been adored across the city ever since. While most of the food at Pino’s has a touch of Calabria (Pino himself hails from the small Calabrian village of Terranova), the cannoli recipe is, of course, Sicilian.
“An old Sicilian pastry chef taught me [the recipe], but he never let me write it down. I had to take the time to remember it off by heart,” cook and Pino’s daughter Carla Foresti says. “He told me the key ingredient for great cannoli is ‘amore'—love."
While Carla wouldn’t give us the secret ingredients, she did say that all cannoli are made and piped fresh daily, and you can be sure to expect that signature creamy and smooth texture in the delicious ricotta filling.
If you prefer your cannoli fine-dining style, treat yourself to a night out at Olio in Chippendale. A five-minute walk from Central Station, this gem of the Kensington Street dining precinct has received rave reviews for its Sicilian fare—including, of course, a special cannoli dessert. Currently the ricotta-filled Cannolo Siciliano is accompanied by candied citrus, a blood orange sauce, prickly pear gel and Bronte pistachio gelato.
Olio’s Executive Chef, Lino Sauro, likes to use ingredients and flavour combinations that remind him of Sicily, however, he says the best part of his cannoli is the fresh buffalo ricotta.
“In terms of cannoli fillings there are two main versions in Sicily: in the western region we use cow’s milk ricotta and on the eastern and south side they use sheep’s milk ricotta,” Sauro explains.
“Both are unique and delicious as long as they are absolutely fresh—two to three days at most. That’s why I source our buffalo ricotta fresh from a local farm and only get the exact little amount of ricotta we need time-by-time.”
While you're here, indulge your sweet tooth a little more at Sydney's best cake shops.
Image credit: Supplied.