Cannoli (or cannolo, singular, meaning “little tube” in Italian) are delicate tubes of golden, fried pastry piped with sweet custard or ricotta. They’re said to have originated in the Sicilian city of Palermo, and range in size from cannulicchi (no bigger than a finger) to the oversized cannolone. In some shops, you can even order giant, birthday-cake sized tubes filled with smaller cannoli for special events.
While the Italian dessert is well recognised globally, it shot to fame after actor Richard Castellano’s ad-libbed line in the 1972 film The Godfather: “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” He was definitely onto something.
But cannoli aren’t just a bakery staple. Many Italian diners across Melbourne have them on their dessert menus, and in their savoury section, too. And some grocers sell empty shells ready for DIY piping at home (a word of advice: don’t pipe too early before eating, otherwise the shells will become soggy).
But if you prefer to leave it to the experts, here are some of the best spots to get cannoli around Melbourne.
T Cavallaro & Sons
The Cavallaro family has been making traditional Sicilian pastries since 1956. Founder Tomasso Cavallaro makes cannoli the same way that he did back home with his father in Lipari, Italy. Today, the process remains almost unchanged under Tomasso’s sons, Tony and Carmelo.
Once kneaded, shell dough is cut into individual portions, stretched, rolled into cylinders and deep fried. The custard is made with milk, eggs and maize flour. Just two filling options are available here. The first is half vanilla and half chocolate custard made imported Dutch cocoa. The second? Ricotta spiced with a hint of cinnamon. Most importantly, each cannoli is filled to order, ensuring that the shell remains light and crispy.
Cannoli Bar came to be after friends Carlo Mellini and Anthony Calenda decided to sell cannoli and biscotti (biscuits) in Avondale Heights, where they grew up. The name is a nod to the old 1950s milk bar that existed on the site before.
The shells, or “scorza”, are made on the premises using the family recipe. The dough is then rolled into thin sheets and cut by hand into oval shapes, which are then wrapped around the cannucce (a frying pipe that floats in the fryer, traditionally made out of bamboo) and dropped into the fryer.
The cannoli here are filled on the spot, too. The Sicilian classic is piped – generously – full of sweetened ricotta, mascarpone, chopped dark couverture chocolate, candied citrus and glacè cherries. Chopped pistachio decorates the ends. The pistacchiusu cannoli is a pistachio-flavoured, chocolate-coated shell filled with pistachio cream imported from Bronte, Sicily, and a mix of the team’s house-roasted pistachios. There are also Oreo, Nutella and Ferrero Rocher cannoli.
Before moving to Australia, Mellini’s father Achille worked at the family’s Pasticceria Mellini in Rome. He spent time at Grossi Florentino and Brunetti, before becoming pastry chef at Gradi Group (400 Gradi, Zero Gradi). Achille now also oversees the kitchen at Cannoli Bar.
Cannoleria by That’s Amore
Sicilian Giorgio Linguanti came to Australia in 2004. After working in several cheese factories, he started to make his own cheeses at night after work, before eventually founding That’s Amore in 2008, which is now known as one of the city’s best for its fior di latte, burrata, ricotta and mascarpone.
That’s Amore also makes Sicilian cannoli through its sibling business Cannoleria, which began as a pop-up at the South Melbourne Market last year. Three more Cannoleria carts now appear at the Preston Market and Highpoint Shopping Centres on weekends, as well as at the flagship store in Thomastown.
Cannoli come freshly filled with That’s Amore’s house-made ricotta (which is produced in the cheese factory each morning). The signature Sicilian is a mix of sweet ricotta, cinnamon and crushed pistachio. Other popular flavours include mandarin-infused ricotta; Ferrero Rocher with Nutella, ricotta and crushed hazelnuts; peanut butter; and orange and fennel.
That’s Amore, 66 Latitude Boulevard,
South Melbourne Market, 322-326 Coventry Street, South Melbourne
Preston Market, 30A The Centreway, Preston
Highpoint Shopping Centre, 120-200 Rosamond Road, Maribyrnong
Dom and Kate Marzano began handcrafting gluten-free cannoli in 2017 in a vintage caravan named Ivana. They were making cannoli for markets, festivals and events before opening their first store in Preston in December 2018.
Dom has over 20 years’ cheffing experience (having spent time at Grossi Florentino and The North Melbourne Hotel, among others). And while Eat Cannoli – which is accredited by Coeliac Australia – offers the classics, it’s more well-known for its experimental flavours.
There are seven rotating cannoli specials each day, all gluten-free and often vegan. Expect crème brûlée, or strawberry and fennel (made using fennel grown in the duo’s back yard), or a vegan pistachio panna cotta number. The Ricotta “OG” is a standout, piped with whipped ricotta with candied orange, chocolate chips and delicately sweetened with honey from the couple’s beehives, which are housed on the roof of their garage.
Since 1965, Trivelli has been baking cakes and piping cannoli for the Coburg community. The family-run business, now headed by Grace Marchitto, is known for its special occasion cakes and cartocci (doughy yet light doughnuts coated in sugar and filled with a fluffy custard-and-ricotta cream).
There are less traditional cannoli flavours including stracciatella, torrone (nougat), zabaglione and Ferrero Rocher. But others here are as traditional as they get – pistachio, ricotta or half vanilla and half chocolate custard dusted with icing sugar.
Baker D. Chirico
One of the most respected and well-known bakers in town, Baker D. Chirico (or Baker, as it's affectionately known by its customers) does a classic Sicilian cannoli. It's not a regular mainstay on the menu, but can be ordered in advance.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on January 10, 2020. Menu items may have changed since publication.