As I have mentioned time and time again, I love going to the North End in Boston. If we are hosting visitors from out of town, inevitably we will take them to the North End. For example, this past weekend, we took the in-laws, who were visiting from California, to Prezza and Mamma Maria (on separate days!!) to try some of the best Italian food in the North End.
Of course, we never order dessert when we dine in the North End.
If you have ever been to the North End, you know there are three places that will have a HUGE line in front, without fail. Pizzeria Regina's, Giacomo's, and Mike's Pastry.
This Italian bakery, situated right in the heart of the North End on Hanover Street, is definitely the most well known pastry shop in the North End. They are especially known for their cannolis, a deep fried pastry shell filled with sweet ricotta cheese.
They also make a wide variety of Italian cookies, pies, cakes, and gorgeous marzipan.
It is always super crowded, and often there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the line. Well, from what I can gather, there really is no exact system. There are several people working the counter, so technically there should be several lines. However, sometimes it just looks like a big crowd inside with one long line snaking out the door. Many in line are tourists, and thus have no idea what is going on.
The best thing to do is to find the shortest "line" if you can find one. If it's really hard to figure out what's going on, just keep walking in (if there's room inside), and find your way up to the counter so you can order. The "line" (mob) moves pretty quickly. Anyway, you may be so overwhelmed by all the choices that you might just prefer that the line take a little while so you can figure out what you want to order. 🙂
I always get a few cannolis - my favorite is the plain one, although I agree with Bryan that the chocolate covered ones keep a bit longer. The cannolis get soggy within a few days, so it's best to eat them as soon as possible. Nothing beats a fresh cannoli with a crunchy exterior and a beautiful creamy center. Yum.
I also like getting the ricotta pie, which has a filling that resembles that of the cannoli, but less creamy and less sweet. Really nice in a different sort of way.
It's an age old debate whether Mike's Pastry or Modern Pastry (just down the street on Hanover) makes better cannolis. Modern pastry fills their cannolis on the spot, whereas Mike's Pastry pre-fills them. This supposedly means that the ones at Modern are more fresh.
I've had cannolis from both places (although not side by side), and I like them both. I don't think I have ever noticed Mike's cannolis being any less "fresh," but then I do devour the cannoli soon after purchasing, so they taste pretty fresh to me. Some say that the cannolis at Mike's tend to be sweeter, with a filling that's denser, smoother, and creamier compared to the more textured, less sweet filling from Modern's cannolis.
From personal experience, I have found that the cannolis from Mike's Pastry keep longer. The shells seem to stay relatively crunchy for at least one whole day (overnight), whereas the Modern Pastry cannolis get soggy in less than 24 hours. This could be because the Modern shells are smaller, lighter, and more delicate than the heftier, cookie-like shells from Mike's.
Both are delicious, and I think you can't go wrong going to either one. In fact, you really can't go wrong just by visiting the North End while you are in Boston. It's such a vibrant neighborhood, the food is fantastic, and the cannolis are unbeatable.
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