Cannoli Crawl of DC


Cannoli Crawl

Perhaps the most well-known Italian dessert is cannoli, likely because of its role in pop culture. You know, that famous scene in The Godfather when Clemenza says, "Leave the Gun. Take the cannoli".

So where there is Italian food, there likely will be cannoli. But to our surprise, quite a few Italian restaurants in the area don't have cannoli on their menus.  We've done the leg work for you to find nine local places to satisfy your cannoli-craving sweet tooth. We've mapped out a journey for you to try the best cannoli in DC - a "Cannoli Crawl," if you will. 

But before you embark on your delicious journey, here's a little cannoli history. 

Cannoli history

Cannoli originated in Sicily, when it was controlled by the Arabs. They were made for Carnevale, but are now enjoyed year-round. 

Cannoli are made from simple ingredients. The outside, often referred to as the shell, is made from pastry dough that's rolled into a cone-like shape and fried. Then the shell is usually filled with a cream made from ricotta or mascarpone. 

The most simple cannoli use sweetened ricotta, but you can find the cheese sweetened with sugar, honey, chocolate, citrus and more.  

Most people refer to them in the plural sense, cannoli, but one of these delicious Sicilian desserts is referred to as a cannolo. Remember Clemenza when you order cannoli. He didn't say, "Leave the gun. Take the cannolis." He said, "Take the cannoli."

How to enjoy cannoli

It's important to consume cannoli quickly since eventually the crunchy shell will absorb liquid from the filling and turn soggy. Crisp cannoli is the way to go. Many places will fill the cannoli for you as you order them to keep them as fresh-tasting as possible. 

Giuseppe "Joe" Farruggio, owner of il Canale shared the Italian way to eat cannoli. "Italians like to pick them up and take a bite at a time," Joe said.  "Any cream left on the plate is scooped up with a fork or spoon. Not a drop is wasted that way."

Here's our suggested Cannoli Crawl route. But we also suggest starting your cannoli crawl at the farthest place from your home, that way it'll feel more like an adventure when you begin. 

From beginning to end, it's about 25.9 miles.

Each location is about 15-20 minutes away from the last location, which gives you just long enough to enjoy your ride and start digesting before moving on! Some locations are bakeries, others are delis or restaurants.

The Best Cannoli in DC

Price: $2.50 for large, $1.50 for mini, $1.75 for mini chocolate
Flavors: Traditional; Chocolate dipped shell

Cannoli are popular for dine-in or to-go at Filippo's Italian Specialties. Their cannoli shells and cream come from Vaccaro's in Silver Spring. 

"We sell a lot of cannoli," owner Filippo Leo said. "We don't fill them before, we fill up to order - even if they just want one."

The most popular cannoli are the traditional, but they'll often get orders of 4-5 dozen of the mini cannoli for parties.

Price: $3 traditional, $3.50 chocolate
Flavors: Traditional; Chocolate dipped shell with chocolate ricotta 

While there are four Pete's locations, we chose their Silver Spring restaurant for our crawl since it'll give you a little bit more time to digest your cannoli before you move on to the next place. 
They even offer curbside service, so you can pay over the phone call when you're pulling up and just roll your window down once you've arrived and they'll hand you your order. 

brookland's finest cannoli 
Cannoli from Brookland's Finest

Price: $8 for three
Flavors: Traditional chocolate with pistachio sprinkled on the ends

On the menu the cannoli are the description for their cannoli reads, "Grandma's Recipe, Ricotta, Pistachio, Chocolate." But you're not getting four different kinds of cannoli. They're filled with ricotta cheese mixed with chocolate chips and have pistachio sprinkled on the ends. 

"Our cannoli are made in house, shells and all," said bartender Joey Madden. "It's the chef's grandmother's recipe."

Price: $3 each
Flavors: Traditional with chocolate chips

Fine Sweet Shoppe is a bakery located in the Eastern Market. 

"People really like the cannoli here," baker Rachel Acol said. "We have them ready to go on display because they're one of our best sellers." 

Price: $8 for three, $16.50 for six
Flavors: Traditional with chocolate shell, sprinkled with pistachios. 

Carmine's is a restaurant that originated in NYC and now has a handful of locations. You can order your cannoli online, so it's ready to pick up when you get there.  Carmine's cannoli are filled to order with their homemade sweetened ricotta cream.

Cannoli from VACE Italian Deli
Price: $1.50 for mini, $2.25 for regular
Flavors: Traditional chocolate chip

Everything is to-go at VACE because they don't have any tables or chairs, which works out perfectly for your Cannoli Crawl.  
Cannoli are popular at VACE.  "We even have a delivery service called DoorDash and people have ordered just cannoli for delivery many times," Diana Calcagno, daughter of owners Blanca and Valerio Calcagno, said. 

Assorted cannoli from il Canale

Price: $9 for two on a dessert plate
Flavors: Traditional; Pistachio cream

The Sicilian cannoli is il Canale's signature dessert since it is a dish that represents Sicily where Giuseppe "Joe" Farruggio, il Canale owner, is from.

il Canale is a full-service restaurant so people generally come in to order lunch or dinner and then top their meal with cannoli. However, customers are welcome to call ahead and order cannoli to take out. 

The hard shells at il Canale are made in New York and the different traditional (white) ricotta cannoli is imported from Sicily. The traditional ricotta cannoli are the most popular at il Canale. Cannoli are always filled to order.

Bonus: If you check in on Yelp, you get one free order of cannoli!

Traditional cannoli from Pastries by Randolph

Price: Ranges from $2.75 - $3.25 (sold by the pound)
Flavors: Traditional; Chocolate covered shells

"We have customers who enjoy cannoli so much that is the only item they purchase," owner Deborah Randolph said. "We display the cannoli shells empty in our showcases so that when a customer comes into the store we can fill them to order."

Although most customers take their cakes and pastries home, Pastries by Randolph has a few bar stools in the store and a small outdoor patio where people can enjoy pastries and have a coffee. 

Chocolate cannoli from Café Italia

Price: $5.95
Flavors: Traditional; Chocolate

While the shells at Café Italia are purchased shells elsewhere, the ricotta cream is made in house. Customers can order them to go or sit and enjoy them in the restaurant.

"We usually make them fresh to order," manager Victor Williams said. "Our bartender will make them as soon as they're ordered so they're really fresh and crunchy." 

If you're considering making your Cannoli Crawl in a Fiat, and you don't already have one, please give us a call or stop by!


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