Sicilian-Inspired Cannoli’s

Located in Toronto’s Long Branch neighbourhood on the west end, Holy Cannoli is a haven for all cannoli lovers like myself.

A map of Italy – Sicilly is highlighted in red

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!

Holy Cannoli Storefront

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.

Every cannoli shell is hand filled when you 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.

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European Flavours at the St. Lawrence Market

When visiting cities around the world, one of the best ways to discover their people, food scene, and culture, is by visiting their local food markets. Think local ingredients, artisanal goods, fresh meals, and the ambiance of locals and tourists mixing. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Particularly in Europe, cities and small towns are known for having regular markets offering wide selections of fresh ingredients, local artisanal goods, and spaces to gather for a meal. To name just a few of the more prominent markets, perhaps you’ve heard of St George’s Market in Belfast, the Östermalms Saluhall in Stockholm, the Marché du Midi in Brussels, the Great Market Hall in Budapest, the Markathalle Neun in Berlin, the Mercato Centrale in Florence, or countless others.

Here in Toronto, the St. Lawrence Market is no different. Offering a glimpse into one of Europe’s most authentic food experiences, you’ll find that not only does Toronto’s food Market look reminiscent of many of the markets listed above, but it also specializes in many of their authentic flavours, among many others!

Inside the St. Lawrence Market
Inside the St. Lawrence Market South Building, Top Floor

The St. Lawrence Market was first established in 1803 and has been a must-see location in the city for food, culture, and international wonders for decades. In fact, in 2011 it was named the #1 market in the world by National Geographic.

As one of the largest markets in the world with over 120 vendors ranging in backgrounds and products, Toronto’s iconic St. Lawrence Market is a great spot to experience a little bit of local and international cultures. There’s so much to see that when you think you’ve seen it all, the Market seems to keep going with more restaurants, artisan shops and grocers around the next corner.

While it showcases flavours and goods from all around the world, as previously mentioned, the Market is particularly home to vendors selling all kinds of foods with European influences. Find everything from European cheeses, meats, wines, desserts and more, all in one place. To name just a few countries highlighted throughout the Market, you can find goods from France, Italy, Germany, Scotland, England, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine, the list goes on! 

As a Toronto local, chances are you’ve already visited the St. Lawrence Market. However, on your next visit, explore Toronto’s iconic landmark with the new mindset of experiencing international cultures and flavours from home. Trade in the sterile supermarkets for the smells and tastes of authentic foods from around the world! Try new flavours from countries you want to visit and learn more about the goods you’re not familiar with.

Additionally, keep in mind that each season brings its own specialties to the Market. So, depending on the month, week or even the day when you might visit, the selection of goods you’ll find throughout the Market will likely be different, making it an exciting location to explore over and over again and a fantastic opportunity to try new things!

On my most recent visit, I embraced my sweet tooth and decided to focus my search on desserts. I stopped by Future Bakery on the top floor and got some of their French macarons and Portuguese custard tarts. I also picked up some Ski Queen caramel flavoured Norwegian cheese as a gift for my mom from Alex Farm Products. And, although it wasn’t quite international but more a Toronto local favourite, I couldn’t resist getting one of the award-winning “World Famous Peameal Bacon Sand­wiches” from the landmark Carousel Bakery

Year-round, the main St. Lawrence Market South building located at 93 Front St E. is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 9am to 5pm and on Saturdays for Market Day from 5am to 4pm. Saturdays are definitely the best time to visit. The building fills with locals shopping for their groceries as well as tourists visiting the iconic location and indulging in some local and international flavours. And, for the best selections of goods, visit in the morning just after the Market opens! 

Next on my list is to check out the North Market, primarily known for its Saturday Farmers’ Market and Sunday Antique Market, in its temporary location at 125 The Esplanade while its original location gets a refresh. 

Happy exploring and shopping! 

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Discover international flavours from around the world at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market 🙌🏻 #torontolife #fyp #torontofood #torontoeats #traveltheworld

♬ FEEL THE GROOVE – Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

Glimpse into Hollywood life at TIFF’s Bell Lightbox

Have you ever dreamed of travelling to Los Angeles in hopes of seeing movie stars and attending a big Hollywood premiere? Well, although Toronto is over 4000kms away by car and a 5 ½ hour flight away from LA, get a taste of the “city of angels” world-renowned film & entertainment scene here in Toronto through none other than our very own iconic TIFF!

TIFF light sign on street
Image courtesy of VOX from TIFF 2019

While Toronto’s International Film Festival is best known for its annual 10-day display of acclaimed films, interesting events, noteworthy celebrities, and extensive media coverage, did you know that TIFF also runs year-round with presentations of feature films, anticipated movie premieres and various film events?

At the TIFF Bell Lightbox located downtown in the heart of Toronto’s media and entertainment district at 350 King St W, you can watch new releases from all over the world year-round. And, when big blockbuster movies are making their way through their press tours, Toronto is often one of their destinations as one of the leading cities in the country, and TIFF is their place to go!

Particularly, I was recently very fortunate to attend just that at the Canadian Premier of the Disney Pixar animated film Turning Red hosted at TIFF. I had never attended a TIFF event before and had no idea what to expect out of a movie premiere for a highly anticipated blockbuster, but I jumped at the chance to get a glimpse into the “Hollywood” atmosphere I had often seen before in the media, but never in person.

Arriving at the event, the Bell Lightbox was decorated with themed movie materials and as I walked in through the front doors I got to walk a red carpet (see pictures below)! To clarify it wasn’t THE red carpet that the stars had walked on earlier in the night but, nonetheless, it still felt like a significant moment.

In addition to all the fun going on outside the theatre, before our showing of the film began, we got to see the stars live in front of us on stage, and afterwards, we stayed for a screened Q&A. Super cool!

Cast of Turning Red on TIFF stage
From left to right: Event MC, Rosalie Chiang (Meilin), Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Priya), Sandra Oh (Ming Lee), Lindsey Collins (Producer) & Domee Shi (Director)

Turning Red takes place in Toronto and features an interpretation of Chinese Canadian director and animator Domee Shi’s adolescence in what she called a love letter to Toronto, her Chinese heritage and Chinese history. The film does a fantastic job at depicting the multiculturalism in the City of Toronto through the story of a preteen Canadian Chinese girl as she comes of age and deals with the cultural expectations from her family.

In addition to being directed by an Oscar-winning director, the film also featured the voices of Canadian stars like Sandra Oh, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as well as up and coming American actress Rosalie Chiang in her debut role as the lead. I was also excited to find out that the film featured music from Billie Eilish & Finneas O’Connell, two artists who are currently leaving their marks in the entertainment world. Long story short, I have a feeling this is going to be a hit and, for any Torontonian, I highly recommend this film. See it on Disney + as of March 11th!

This film is a milestone for Pixar as it’s the first feature film to be set in Canada and the first to feature a female director! As a Toronto native, it was fun seeing some of my favourite Toronto landmarks be represented on the big screen like the “Skydome,” Chinatown, the TTC, the CN Tower, and so much more! It’s incredible to think that this movie will be viewed all around the world for people to enjoy and that our great city is the star location. After all, this is not something we see often in films since cities like New York, Paris, or London tend to get featured instead.

While the Turning Red premiere has now come and gone, one thing is clear: TIFF’s Bell Lightbox is a fantastic location to get a glimpse into the Hollywood movie scene. As a movie and entertainment enthusiast, I will now definitely be on the lookout for upcoming fun events to attend at TIFF sometime soon as well as some of their regular showings of acclaimed films!

Cover image sourced from Wikipedia Commons.

Discovering a slice of Germany in Toronto’s West end

European bakeries are infamous for their freshly baked goods, friendly atmosphere, and kind staff. At the Dimpflmeier factory outlet bakery located in Toronto’s west end, things are no different!

At Dimpflmeier’s factory outlet, you can find an array of bread options.

Maybe the Dimpflmeier name sounds familiar? You might have seen it in your local grocery store in the bread section. However, although the Dimpflmeier breads you’ll find in your grocery store are delicious, for a German bakery experience within the city of Toronto, Dimpfleimer’s factory outlet is your place to be!

As you walk into the Dimpflmeier factory outlet bakery, take a step into another world as you’re greeted by the smells of freshly baked breads. Also notice the German music playing on the speakers, the German sayings on the walls, the traditional staff uniforms, and the décor, which together accentuate the bakeries’ German heritage.

Inside you’ll be met with a room filled with countless bread varieties, pastries, pretzels, cakes, and more! Unless you know exactly what you’re looking to buy, I highly recommend making a round of the different sections before settling on any items in particular. I spent a good 5 to 10 minutes walking around exploring everything from the various types of bread, the pastry counters, and refrigerated goods, seeing all that was available. Particularly, as someone who doesn’t speak German it was also quite fun going through the isles and trying to pronounce some of the German names like Schinkenbrot or Sonnenblumenkerne. Luckily, English and French translations were always available.

Dimpflmeier’s factory outlet has an impressive selection of fresh pastries & cakes.
Strudels were one of the traditional German pastries that were available at Dimpflmeier’s.
Pretzels were on display at the counter.

While I visited in the afternoon and was not disappointed with the selection of products, one of the staff members recommended that for my next visit, I come in the morning to have an even greater selection of goods fresh out of the ovens to choose from. And she noted that if I had something specific in mind (outside of what is readily available on the sales floor), Dimpflmeier also offers the opportunity to order some of their products made fresh to pick-up in-store.

Unfortunately, when I visited the Dimpflmeier factory outlet bakery, due to COVID-19 restrictions their seating area where shoppers and visitors could enjoy their treats in store before heading home was closed. However, sneaking a peek, I could see beautiful hand-painted murals on the walls and plenty of seating.

I opted to keep my selection small for my first visit (even though this was hard to do). Upon the cashier’s recommendation, I purchased a traditional European donut filled with raspberry filling, which I will 100% be returning to get some time! Additionally, I got a half loaf of Munich Style Light Rye Bread, a cherry strudel, and I couldn’t pass up getting a funny face cookie because of just how fun they were! Overall my selection came to about $8, which in my eyes was a great deal! And, in addition to the great price, everything was DELICIOUS! So, win-win!

With over 40 varieties of breads to choose from, Dimpflmeier breads offer something for every lifestyle. They come in an array of options like organic, low carb, vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free. And, since the Dimpflmeier bakery is attached to the factory, when visiting, you can be sure that the breads you’re buying in their store are fresh and haven’t been shipped over long distances as you can see them being handmade and packaged to be sent out to stores around North America!

See the factory behind the outlet bakery where the Dimpflmeier breads are being freshly made.

Since it was first established in 1957 by Alphons Dimpflmeier, a German bread master who brought his rare skills to Canada, Dimpflmeier remains true to its German roots paying homage to the country’s fine art of baking. While their breads are now shipped across North America, their timeless recipes are still executed with the same attention to detail they have always had. Using only the finest ingredients including water from their own soft-water spring in the countryside of Terra Cotta, Ontario, as well as authentic stone ovens from Germany, you can really taste the difference.

Next time you’re near Toronto’s west end, head to the Dimpflmeier factory outlet for a traditional German bakery experience within Toronto! It’s just a quick ride south of Kipling station at 26 Advance Rd. But, if you can’t make it in-store, next time you’re doing your grocery shopping, stroll through the bread section with an eye out for Dimpflmeier’s breads to give them a try! Either way, you’ll feel as if you’re experiencing a slice of Germany!

Nordic Lights at the Harbourfront

While the iconic northern lights are not visible from Toronto, the Harbourfront Center brought the Scandinavian light to the city’s waterfront with their Nordic Lights exhibition as a part of their Nordic Bridges 2022 initiative.

Image courtesy of Nordic Bridges Facebook Page

Taking place throughout 2022, the Nordic Bridges initiative looks to foster “cultural exchange between the Nordic Region and Canada” and present “unique experiences that highlight contemporary Nordic arts and culture” through various disciplines. Countries to be featured include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Åland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

The Nordic Lights exhibit was the first Nordic Spotlight of the year, marking the start of the year-long collaboration. Set to run for a limited amount of time from January 27th to February 21st, 2022, the exhibit was free to access and ran daily from 5pm to 10pm.

Excited to experience a little bit of Nordic arts and culture, despite the freezing cold, I was able to visit the exhibit and see its installations for myself.

The outdoor light exhibit featured works by artists from Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, and Canada. The pieces were installed around the Harbourfront grounds and showcased dazzling light art displays, co-produced with Fjord Studio out of Oslo, Norway.

While all the installations were beautiful, three stood out most, Control No Control (Quebec), Pressure (Denmark) and Great Minds (Sweden).


In addition to the three pieces above, Equinox (Norway), Gorzi (Finland), shared a space showcasing captivating video projections on the exterior of the Harbourfront Centre, and the Sense Light Swing (Sweden) showcased the movement of people on swings with light.

Nordic Bridges 2022 isn’t the only internationally driven initiative the Harbourfront Center has to offer! The Centre has lots to discover year-round, both indoors and outdoors, with new events and activities taking place regularly. Their initiatives originate from local destinations to international ones, and they cover a wide range of mediums, including traditional arts, theatre, dance, education and more!

Stay up to date on what might be coming next. I know I will!

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A little taste of China

No trip to Chinatown is complete without a meal!

Get a taste of some traditional Chinese cuisine at one of the many fantastic restaurants within the neighbourhood. They offer the freshest ingredients, ensuring that you leave feeling happy and full for very reasonable prices. And, although the neighbourhood is particularly known for its Chinese food, it also offers a variety of Vietnamese, Thai, Korean and Japanese restaurants where you can find popular authentic dishes like ramen, barbecue pork buns, dumplings, Kimchi and much more.

In Chinatown, Dim Sum is one of the better-known meals to get. In fact, when speaking about the culinary scene in Toronto, the world celebrated celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, once said, “Toronto does dim sum very, very well,” “It’s a strength, has been for a long time.”

Not sure what is Dim Sum? To keep it short, the name refers to a large range of small Chinese dishes served in small amounts. (if you’re familiar, picture how the Spanish eat Tapas) Often you’ll find small steamed or savoury fried dumplings containing various fillings, and they’ll be served in traditional bamboo dishes. The meal originating from South China is typically enjoyed as a snack or main course during brunch hours.

Dumpling House Restaurant – 328 Spadina Ave.

While there are so many restaurants to pick from, my favourite spot in Chinatown is the Dumpling House Restaurant. Serving up authentic pan-fried or steamed pork dumplings as well as other dishes you’ll be dreaming about (trust me), the Dumpling House Restaurant is where I find myself consistently returning to and bringing friends.

The restaurant offers a great selection of over 80 dishes—from hot and sour soup to General Tso’s chicken to Shanghai noodles made fresh in front of you as you walk in. My go-to Dumpling House order is a plate of their pan-fried pork dumplings with a side of Shanghai noodles. So much good food with usually lots of leftovers to take home!

And, although it isn’t Chinese, Ramen is also a staple dish that I find myself returning to Chinatown to get. Ajisen Ramen is my go-to choice of location.

Out front, the location is hard to miss with its statue of a girl holding a big bowl of ramen. Indoors, the space is decorated with a large Japanese mural and a display of traditional bowls and as you wait for your order, spot the chef’s hand making the noodles in the back.

Despite the constant flow of customers, the restaurant’s atmosphere is cozy, and it makes for an excellent location for a quick and inexpensive casual meal. While I love eating ramen year-round, the hot soup and noodle dish is especially perfect when the weather is cooler, and you are in need of something to warm you up.

Learn more about Chinatown in our cultural neighbourhood feature!

Japanese Cheesecake on the GO

While on a recent trip through the Union GO Train Station, I stopped by the Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake location in the York Concourse and picked up a treat to enjoy when I got home. This was a first for me, and it definitely won’t be a last!

Uncle Tetsu's Bag with Union Station location in background

Living in Toronto, I had heard a lot about the Uncle Tetsu brand and their unique type of cheesecake but had never had an opportunity to stop by one of their flagship locations in the city. On many occasions, I had even passed by their location at Union Station, smelling the sweet smell of the warm cheesecakes while rushing to my train. This time, with a couple minutes to spare, I finally decided to try it out. 

If you’ve never heard of Japanese cheesecake, unlike a traditional or New York-style cheesecake with which you might be most familiar, Japanese cheesecake is a lot fluffier and lighter, reminiscent of a soufflé. The cake doesn’t have a crust and is one tall layer of jiggly goodness. While it’s made with similar ingredients, the process is a lot more complicated, using whipped egg whites in the batter. Some might even say that since this cheesecake is so much lighter, you could eat a whole cake to yourself in one sitting because it’s filled with a lot of air and isn’t nearly as heavy. After trying the cake for myself, this was definitely very tempting!

Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake from above

Made fresh on location, my cheesecake from Uncle Tetsu’s was ready to bring home in a cute Uncle Tetsu’s box and bag shortly after I ordered it. On the train, I kept getting whiffs of its delicious smell in its box and was counting down the minutes till when I could dig in. Later, the cheesecake definitely lived up to its expectations!

With the iconic Uncle Tetsu gradient and character branding on top, the cake was delicious. Unlike the many other cheesecakes I had previously had, this one was light, airy, and fluffy. It felt cloud-like and was very easy to eat as it melted in my mouth with every bite.

Uncle Tetsu's cheesecake cut on a plate

Uncle Testu’s Cheesecake had its start in Japan in the 1970s when Uncle Tetsu first opened an Uncle Tetsu shop in Fukuoka. However, it was not until 1985 that the Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecake was born. Following its creation, Uncle Tetsu’s original recipe for handmade Japanese-style cheesecake quickly grew in popularity throughout Japan, becoming a hot topic in the media. Since then, the chain has grown to have locations worldwide, starting in Taiwan and China, followed by Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the United States, and Canada. Their first Toronto location was opened in 2015, and since then, they now have 9 locations within the GTA. 

Head to an Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake location to try their delicious dessert for yourself! And, stay tuned as I try more international treats within our city!

Cultural Neighbourhood Feature: Chinatown

Visiting the colourful and energetic streets of downtown Chinatown is a must for anyone looking to experience the diversity that the city of Toronto offers.

Located at Dundas and Spadina, next to Kensington Market, Chinatown is one of the many cultural neighbourhoods that can be found in the city. Its large number of shops, restaurants, activities and historic monuments makes the neighbourhood an exciting location for a day trip or a quick outing. One thing is for sure, you will definitely leave feeling as if you just experienced a small part of Chinese culture.

A mural on the side of an LCBO in Chinatown

Toronto’s Chinatown is one of the largest Chinatowns in North America. The area was formerly the home to a Jewish community until they migrated north and the Chinese community migrated west. Today, the population of Chinatown has grown beyond its ethnic Chinese scope and also includes influences of East Asians, Thai, and Vietnamese cultures.

The Spadina streetcar line is the quickest way to get in and out of Chinatown.

To get to Chinatown, one of the best ways is by public transportation as parking in the areas is sparse and can be expensive. The TTC has many streetcar lines that go directly through or around Chinatown, making it easily accessible. The 504 King streetcar and the 506 Dundas streetcars stop close to the neighbourhood but require a block or two of walking. However, the 510 Spadina streetcar runs directly through Chinatown while going from Spadina to Union station. Get off at the Dundas St stop and you’ve arrived in the heart of Chinatown!

The best way to see Chinatown is definitely by foot. By simply walking down to the streets, you can see the brightly coloured signs and storefronts packed with souvenirs or produce. Restaurants feature their menus on their windows for easy browsing, and sometimes even display full barbecued ducks or pigs. Grocery stores are busy with locals shopping for fresh and authentic Asian ingredients. And, retail stores often extend their footprints to the side-walk with displays to browse from outside.

Walking on Spadina through Chinatown

As it can often feel very crowded when walking through Chinatown, be patient while walking slower than usual and use it as an opportunity to take everything in.

Particularly, as you walk south following the Spadina streetcar route, notice the dragon sculptures in the middle of the road. Twisted into figure eights these sculptures decorating the street, are also known as the Dragon Monumental Gate and signify the Chinese character for “gateway”.

All this being said, Chinatown has become one of my favourite places to visit in Toronto since it offers the opportunity to experience Chinese and Asian culture in the heart of the city. One thing is for sure, whether you’re a Toronto native or a first-time visitor to the city, Chinatown is worth exploring!

Check out Chinatown for yourself and tag on Instagram or Facebook plus use the hashtag #650to to spread the word about this fun project! (you might even get a feature on our website’s homepage)