Located in Toronto’s Long Branch neighbourhood on the west end, Holy Cannoli is a haven for all cannoli lovers like myself.
If you’re unfamiliar with the cannoli, not to be confused with the cannelloni, they’re a sweet dessert originating from the Sicilian city of Palermo. As one of Italy’s best-known desserts, the Cannoli or Cannolo siciliano consists of a fried tube-shaped shell filled with sweet cheese cream. Traditionally, this filling will consist of sweetened ricotta, but mascarpone is also sometimes used or a combination of both. Traditional flavours primarily consist of vanilla, honey, pistachio or a hint of cinnamon.
As Italians immigrated to North America, variations of the dessert were invented depending on available ingredients, cultural mixes, and tastes. Therefore today, you’ll find that there are many variations of what is considered a modern cannolo. Some of the most common changes are done within the filling, where new flavours and toppings are mixed. To name a few: almonds, chocolate chips, matcha, candied orange peel or pumpkin are common additions to the filling.
While my family is not Sicilian, growing up in a half Italian family, cannolis are a family favourite, and they are often one of the main desserts served at family dinners or events. To put it simply, I’ve had my fair share of cannoli, and they’re one of my favourite desserts. So, as you can imagine, when I learned that there was a Cannoli place close to my home, I couldn’t pass up the chance to give it a try and headed over to get myself a treat as soon as I could!
The quaint storefront is located on the corner of Lakeshore Blvd and Thirtieth Street. Its front windows are decorated with hand-drawn text & illustrations, including its logo and the funny slogan “there cannoli be one.” As you walk in, the interior is also quaint and inviting. You’re immediately met with rows of cannoli shells on display behind the counter, family pictures on the walls and a kind staff member ready to take your order.
Unlike other bakeries where you might find already filled cannoli, at Holy Cannoli, each shell is empty and ready to be filled by hand in front of you after selecting from your filling flavours. The shells come in a variety of options, including different sizes. Choose from the regular, chocolate-lined, vegetarian, gluten-free, and or the sfoglia shells, each available in bite-size, medium and large versions. Then for the filling, Holy Cannoli offers a mix of core flavours and seasonal ones. For my visit in the early spring, these included vanilla, chocolate, cookies & cream, lemon, cappuccino, chocolate chip, and fudge brownie.
In my order, I got 6 of the mini chocolate-lined hard shell cannolis, half with cookies and cream and vanilla filling. They were a perfect 2-bite-size and were a great way to try the flavours. And, since I was less familiar with them, I got 6 of the medium sfoglia cannolis filled with vanilla and chocolate. They were also delicious with their softer flaky crust, reminiscent of a croissant or french puff pastry.
Although their cannoli come with a bit of a pricey price tag, they’re definitely worth it. And, it goes without saying that although all the filling flavours were delicious, the vanilla was the star!
As the core flavour, the vanilla cream filling is what makes Holy Cannoli stand apart from other cannoli bakeries. Its recipe made with ricotta was created by owner Vanessa Chiara’s father, master baker & chef Nicola Chiaravalloti after visiting Sicily. Chiaravalloti trained as a baker in Rome and had his own pastry shop there before moving to Toronto and opening Bona Via Bakery in Scarborough in 1985. Following his passing in 2018, his daughter looked to carry on his legacy through the Holy Cannoli brand, sharing his delicious cannoli recipe in their storefront location as well as food shows, markets and GTA retailers, one cannolo at a time!
Next time you’re in the Long Branch area, stop by the Holy Cannoli store to try their cannoli for yourself or visit one of their other resellers in the GTA to try them there. I’m already counting down the days and looking forward to going back for more of their delicious Sicilian-inspired cannolis and other Italian desserts & drinks.