By Rachael Vella-Garrido
It’s a good thing I ran the Subaru 4 Mile Chase Friday night. Walking to the Sorrento Cheese Italian Heritage Festival on Saturday was a good move too, as I was on my way to sample some of Buffalo’s finest cannoli. I got through three or four (and most of a meatball hoagie from Lorigo’s Meating Place) before I called it quits. So, Gino’s and Angelo’s, I’m sorry, I just couldn’t do it! They looked delicious.
I’m a cannoli fan from way back. I was blessed with a mother who was a magical cook. She was able to pop into the kitchen and whip up things like cannoli and chocolate éclairs with only staples from the pantry. To me, a cannolo (the Italian singular of cannoli) should be simple, minus the bits of candied fruit, cherries or pistachios that some people like to add to the filling. My tour of the Italian Festival covered mostly traditional cannoli. If you’ve ever tried to make them yourself, you know that the secret is to get the filling to just the right temperature so that it isn’t too runny, or too stiff. That’s also one of the challenges of serving and eating cannoli at an outdoor festival in the hot sun. You need to gobble them up quickly, or the moisture will ruin the crisp shell.
Russ’s Pastry Shoppe
294 West Ferry Street, Buffalo, NY 14213 (716) 881-7080
Russ’s cannoli were cool and creamy, adorned with rainbow sprinkles. Visually pleasing, the extra tiny chocolate chips mixed into the filling and the generous helping of powdered sugar on the exterior pushed the sweetness a bit further, but not too far.
Pasquale’s Italian Market
1146 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14216 (716) 873-3575
I actually cheated with this cannoli, sampling it earlier in the week. The cheese used here is marscapone, a triple-cream cheese found in tiramisu, and though not as rich as the traditional offering, I didn’t feel anything was lost in the switch. Pasquale’s also dips the ends in a rich, milk chocolate, which really hits the spot. The market sells a frozen version and will also fill them fresh.
The good news is, these are delicious. The bad news? This family only makes cannoli for the four days of the festival. I was told by the family that they do serve the same recipe at Merge restaurant, so you should be able to find them there. The filling was thicker and richer than the others, and the green sprinkles really set them apart. I had the version filled with mini chips and thought the consistency was the high point.
Romeo and Juliet’s Restaurant and Bakery
1292 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14216 (716) 873-5730
I tried these when I was at my sweet threshold. We were on the way back around from our first loop of the food stands. I was tired. I was full. My legs were sore from the walking and running previously mentioned. I knew I had to take one for the team and continue on this challenge.
Even in this state, I new I had found the one. I chose the chip-less version from a very pleasing display case that must have been kept extra cool. I had to focus hard to ignore the neighboring cookies and pastries. The first bite was quite refreshing due to something different in the filling. There were no chunks of fruit, but there was a subtle citrus zest that distinguished it from the other cannoli. I ate the whole thing as if it was my first, and the shell crumbled a bit because it was so flaky and fresh.
It’s not too late to get out and do your own cannoli test drive. The Sorrento Cheese Italian Heritage Festival is up and running through today.
Rachael Vella-Garrido has just returned to the city after a
brief hiatus in the suburbs. She is a teacher who will be spending the
summer getting reacquainted with Buffalo.
Lead image by Christa Glennie Seychew
Inset image by Hector Garrido