No matter where you turn in Boston, there is a friendly, or not-so-friendly, rivalry brewing nearby. There are the famous urban competitions between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, the New England Patriots versus the New York Giants; even extending to the NCAA between the city’s natives, Boston College and Boston University, and even further out to the suburbs where the oldest high school football rivalry in the country broils between Needham and Wellesley. For some of these battles, there is an obvious winner and a clear underdog. But even when taking a closer look at specific Boston neighborhoods, and the streets that line them, intense and longstanding rivalries can be found.
In Boston’s historic North End exists potent Southern Italian influences that are well-preserved in pasticcerias, pizza parlors, pasta havens and cafes. Two of the most notable Italian bakeries, Modern Pastry and Mike’s Pastry, both famous for their cannoli, glare at each other through their opposing storefronts on Hanover street. Masses of tourists and passionate foodies can be found hoarding into Mike’s at any given time, any day of the week, while Modern remains slightly more modest with a distinct yet loyal following of local customers. Ask any given, longtime Boston resident who has the best cannoli, and they’ll instantly narrow it down to these two shops. So, as the investigative journalists and passionate Bostonians we are, we had to ask: who really has the best cannoli?
MISSION: WHO HAS THE BEST CANNOLI?
WHO: MIKE’S PASTRY VS. MODERN PASTRY
WHAT: TRADITIONAL CANNOLI. PLAIN SHELL, RICOTTA FILLING.
WHERE: IM BOSTON HEADQUARTERS
JUDGES: IM BOSTON STAFF (CANNOLI LOVERS)
WHY: TO SETTLE THIS DEBATE ONCE AND FOR ALL
Watch the full taste-test video to find out who the king of cannoli really is. Can’t wait? Scroll past the video where you’ll find our verdict:
MIKE’S: Everything is super-sized here. Their cannoli are huge, the lobster tails appear to weigh 10 lbs, even the cupcakes are pushing the boundaries of their liners. The store is definitely bigger than Modern with more sweets to pick from, but there will definitely be a crowd to dodge through, especially if you’re here during the city’s tourist seasons. Mike’s also offers an overwhelming number of cannoli flavors such as chocolate chip, peanut butter, mint chip and about 15 others. You’ll find that an important factor that differentiates Mike’s product from Modern’s is that Mike’s cannoli are pre-filled as opposed to filled-to-order. This could, perhaps, make Mike’s shells a bit more soggy. You’ll also find that Mike’s cannoli is about as decadent and indulgent as a dessert can be. It’s huge in size, overwhelmingly sweet and outright addicting. Yet these are the factors that keep tourists migrating here from all over the world, so Mike’s cannoli must be doing something right.
MODERN: Modern is, like I said, more modest in size with less sweets in their glass case and only a handful of cannoli options to pick from. Don’t let the menu size fool you though; every item they offer is about as top class as you can get. They also allow you to “build your own” cannoli, picking from a number of shells, including gluten free options, four fillings and three toppings. We opted for a box of the traditional cannoli, of course, and watched as the woman behind the counter went to the back to freshly hand-fill each shell with their ricotta concoction. Modern fills-to-order every cannoli and doesn’t keep any pre-filled flavors in their front display. It’s also worth noting that Modern’s cannoli are cheaper than the ones at Mike’s, but that could perhaps be explained by the size difference. Mike’s cannoli could probably eat one or two of Modern’s cannoli, but for what Modern lacks in size they make up for in quality.
MOST DELICIOUS: MIKE’S PASTRY
MOST AUTHENTIC: MODERN PASTRY
CONCLUSION: Mike’s knows what the people want and they give it to them. An indulgent, over-stuffed cannoli will satisfy any sweet tooth. Coupled with the cute packaging and inviting decor, Mike’s has all the makings to be a tourist attraction for a very, very long time. But if you’re not a tourist, not trying to impress your tourist friend, or you just don’t like overly sweet pastries, then skip the mob and head to modern. Locals will agree that Modern’s cannoli is more appropriate for holiday gatherings, more traditional and will surely make any Italian grandmother proud.