SMiLes by Meg

North End Cannoli

Friends, another chapter of SMiLes by Meg is coming to an end – this is my last weekend in Boston! Tomorrow I move down to Washington, D.C., with a new kitchen and a new bakery scene to explore.

Obviously, if I’m moving tomorrow, my kitchen is very much packed up already. And I didn’t think that just using a spare recipe would be a good way to mark my last weekend here (also, I didn’t have a spare recipe…)

So, this week, I convinced Madison and my Mom to help me out with something a little different – a taste test of North End cannoli.

Not that it’s super hard to convince people to share 3 cannoli with you, but I appreciated their support.

And aside from trying cannoli, my mom and I had just the perfect weekend. We walked all over the city – to Newbury Street, to Seaport, to the North End – ate so much good food, drank very nice wine on my roof (thanks, Madison!), and generally just got to enjoy Boston exactly how I wanted to remember it. Oh, and we laughed a ton. It was really perfect. Thanks, Mom!!

But back to the cannoli. We got one from Modern Pastry, one from Mike’s Pastry and one from Bova’s Bakery. As for criteria, we considered presentation in the box, presentation on the plate, shell, filling, chocolate chips and overall balance. We got the same cannoli at each establishment – plain with ricotta filling and chocolate chips. And, in the interest of full disclosure, this was not a blind taste test, because that seemed too hard to figure out.

Presentation (In Box)

Presentation matters. And in the box, Modern was the clear winner (and Bova the clear loser). Modern’s box has a cute little illustration of the bakery, and the red twine was a highlight (particularly given red is my mom’s favorite color). Bova didn’t even try, just grabbing a cannoli off the shelf (Mike and Modern fill the cannoli in front of you) and throwing it in a takeout box. Mike’s box with the window was fine, but I actually preferred not being able to stare at the cannoli for the whole walk home – better for the self control.

Presentation (On Plate)

Modern also won presentation on the plate, but it was a bit closer with Mike’s this time (Madison voted for Mike’s). Bova was again the loser. Bova just looked boring – no powdered sugar, kind of small. The winning factor for Modern, in my opinion, was the dusted chocolate chips. I think they just look less fake or something (that’s a technical analysis), and definitely like they’re going to taste better.

We then each cannoli into thirds, which meant that in the taste tests, we got two ends and one middle. As I said, not the most scientific, but I took the middle on Mike’s, Mom took the middle on Bova’s, and Madison took the middle on Modern.


In a very big surprise, the winner for best shell was actually Bova. We all agreed that crispier shells are better, which got Bova most of the way (and Modern was crispier than Mike’s, if you’re wondering), but Bova had something else – it actually tasted more cookie-ish. Like you’d enjoy eating this shell on its own. It could stand up without filling and chocolate chips. All three of us thought it was the winner, and we were all shocked by this.


I chose the Mike’s picture here, but Modern was the winner on filing. Here, we were looking for creaminess. You want it to be smooth and light, but to still hold it’s shape (and not fall all over you while you’re trying to eat it). Mom and Madison voted Modern on this, and I voted Mike’s. I think I was just trying to not seem super biased, though – Modern has always been my favorite.

Chocolate Chips

Modern was the clear winner here (and Bova the loser). Look how nice they look! Decidedly better quality than Mike’s and Bova’s, and quantity was spot on – you got a lot of bites of chocolate chips because of the shape of the shell, and no one complains about lots of bites of chocolate chips.

Overall Balance

Of course, having good filling, a good shell or good chocolate chips isn’t enough – they all have to work together well. Madison (who was previously team Mike’s) again voted for Mike’s here. Mom and I voted for Modern (which is the right answer). Creamy filling, lots of bites of chocolate chips, and a nice crispy shell. It really is the perfect cannoli.

So what were the final scorecards? We did golf scoring (so 1 is the best, 3 is the worst):

The verdict? You should definitely find two friends and try all three. But if you’re just going for one, go visit my friends at Modern – you won’t be sorry.

Until next time, Boston!