This week's throwdown is all about my New York mother-in-law's favorite dessert: Italian Cannoli
We picked up two: one from Mamma Lucia and another from Santini's New York Style Deli.
Cannoli originated in Sicily, Italy, and is traditionally served for Carnival (the beginning of Lent) and at weddings. In the US, they are a popular Italian-American dessert, anytime - a tube of fried pastry dough filled with a delicious ricotta cream and small chocolate chips.
Here in Reston, it was hard to pick a true winner. In this case it was like choosing between your favorite jeans and dress pants - they both are good for certain situations. Mamma Lucia's restaurant is a bit fancier. They offer a wide range of Italian dishes and pasta for a sit-down meal. So their cannoli are a bit fancier, dressed up with chocolate sauce, chocolate shavings, and dollops of filling on the top.
Santini's Deli is like those favorite jeans - comfortable. The restaurant is a casual place, with bar stools and huge TVs for sports viewing. But even as a casual deli, Santini's knows something about serving desserts. In addition to the cannoli, Santini's offers 10 other desserts, including several types of tasty-looking cakes, such as red velvet, German chocolate and devil's food.
At Santini's, you order from the counter and wait while they fill the cannoli – don't ever buy pre-filled cannoli, as it will be soggy. The cannoli at Santini's come in two sizes: small ($2.10), which is 3.5 inches long and 1 inch wide (yes, I am that geeky to measure), and large ($3.15) and just under 5 inches long by 1 inch wide.
A lovely dessert, Santini's cannoli were well worth the wait. The shell gave a good crunch and the filling had a nice vanilla-ricotta taste. It was simply adorned with a layer of snow-white powdered sugar.
Mamma Lucia's cannoli cost $6.35, twice the cost of Santini's large-size cannoli, which is a consideration. Is the greater expense justified? Mamma Lucia's cannoli were almost twice as thick at 2 inches, so you are getting a bit more. The pastry shell of Mamma Lucia's cannoli was also thicker (and to be frank, a bit harder to bite). Their dessert was heavier, and the pastry cream denser.
So is fancier and expensive better? In this case it was, but just a bit. What I preferred about Mamma Lucia's cannoli was the filling. It was smoother and creamier than Santini's. Santini's filling had a nice flavor, but the consistency was a bit less creamy, with more ricotta taste.
Mamma Lucia's shell also had a touch of cinnamon taste, which I liked, and the filling had a bit of citrus taste. I also preferred the fancier presentation, especially the spritz of chocolate sauce.