Craving cannoli? A shell-to-shell comparison

I think I can speak for all Bostonians when I say that you can’t go wrong with a North End cannoli. However, two pastry shops tend to outshine the rest: Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry.  

Mike’s and Modern are located on opposite sides of the busy and bustling Hanover Street in Boston’s North End, separated by a mere block. Both often have a line out the door that stretches down the sidewalk. The question is, which line should you wait in? 

Modern Pastry (257 Hanover St, Boston)

While visitors to the North End tend to gravitate toward Mike’s, Modern Pastry is a local secret.  

It has that quintessential cafe ambiance and a bar in the basement (however, the bar is closed currently). As I approached the entrance, I could smell the rows of treats before my eyes could see them.  

My order of one cannoli came to $4.50. The server then disappeared into the backroom before emerging with a freshly filled cannoli, topped with powdered sugar and dipped in chocolate chips, filling oozing out of each end of the shell.  

I would not recommend eating a Modern cannoli on the go, as the loose filling will spill everywhere. To best enjoy a Modern cannoli, you should find a place to sit and be prepared with napkins. There are places to sit and eat inside Modern, but that might not be ideal because of the pandemic. 

The cannoli shell was crisp, thin, and surprisingly flavorful, but careful not to overpower the smooth filling. Ricotta filling can be an acquired taste; however, Modern Pastry makes their cannoli filling sweet enough to mask the ricotta flavor. A single bite confirmed the cannoli’s freshness, which was the perfect combination of crunch and creaminess. Compared to other North End bakeries, Modern’s cannolis edge on the side of small and light, so eating one will leave you wanting more.  

Mike’s Pastry (300 Hanover St, Boston)

Due to its fame outside of the North End, the line for Mike’s Pastry is usually filled with tourists, as trying a Mike’s cannoli is an essential stop on any trip to Boston.

Mike’s has a few other locations in the Boston area, but the North End store front is the original.  Upon entering, you are greeted with an overwhelming selection of desserts, including 19 different types of cannolis—a much larger variety than Modern has. These options range from a traditional Italian Limoncello liquor filling to a more Americanized Oreo or peanut butter. If you’re looking to be adventurous, Mike’s is definitely the place to go. For the sake of consistency, however, I ordered a chocolate chip cannoli again at Mike’s, which cost $5.00.  

The cannoli itself was larger and thicker than that of Modern’s, making it ideal for sharing. Additionally, the filling was even sweeter; you could barely taste the ricotta at all. It was also significantly neater and more manageable, but that’s because the filling had time to harden in a fridge as Mike’s does not fresh fill their cannolis. Since the cannolis aren’t filled on the spot, the shell was less crunchy and slightly soggy. 

And the winner is… 

While still delicious, the Mike’s cannoli did not hold up to the hype when compared with Modern’s. It was much heavier, a little stale, and the filling had a grainy texture, making it inferior to the fresh and delicate Modern cannoli.

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