When I did my write up on Sydney’s best cake, cannoli – a traditional Sicilian sweet – should have featured. But my favourite cannoli were from Sulfaro in Haberfield, which unfortunately closed down (Update 2015: I hear Sulfaro has now re-opened but it is different owners and not the original cannoli!). So I thought I’d compare those from a few other Italian pasticcerie around town. Cannoli are a fried pastry filled with either ricotta, a vanilla crème patissiere or a chocolate custard. Traditionally the ricotta ones (my favourite and usually the only ones I will eat, whereas the husband goes for vanilla and the kids the chocolate) will contain chopped nuts or candied peel, and there’s also often a touch of alcohol. For a mere couple of dollars, these are a great little treat. Most places will make mini and larger size ones, and most don’t fill the casings until you order them, to prevent the pastry from going soggy. They are best eaten as soon as you can after the casings are filled with your desired flavour.
On my little trip to the Inner West, where I go regularly to the Italian delicatessans, I tried those from Blue Star, Marineve, Dolcetti, and Tamborrino. Blue Star has been around for as long as I can remember. The wave of Italian migrants to Australia in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, among them my parents, would eventually change the face of dining in Australia. But back then, they struggled to find the food and products they were used to eating at home.
Blue Star was one of the early ones, bringing a piece of the familiar to a little corner in Five Dock; their “continental cake” was a standard order in our family growing up – it was there for every birthday, christening, communion, anniversary and any other special occasion. When we became teenagers we moved away from it, wanting to try things that were modern and more “trendy”. But recently we’ve gone back to the continental cake, and it fills us with a wave of childhood nostalgia. Marineve is very similar to Blue Star, the sweet Italian nonna behind the counter, and beautiful traditional sweets in the counters are just waiting to be eaten (I also recommend Blue Star’s conchiglie biscuits). They are old school, you won’t find a website, their customers are those they’ve had for 30 years, and their children and grandchildren.Tamborrino and Dolcetti are two of the ‘newer’ ones, though still with plenty of longevity – they serve a mixture of the traditional and the new.
So onto the taste test
The verdict? Well, frankly, they were all pretty damn good. I think they could be put into two groups in terms of style – Blue Star and Marineve in one, Dolcetti and Tamborrino in the other.
Blue Star and Marineve were more similar, and more traditional in style with a thicker ricotta filling, and chopped nuts, though Blue Star’s filling was a little sweeter. And Dolcetti and Tamborrino were similar, with the ricotta filling being thinner, probably combined with cream. Tamborrino had no nuts or peel for texture, but it did have slightly more alcohol giving it a lovely flavour. Tamborrino also had the thinnest pastry casing and Blue Star the thickest. The pastry of all of them had a good crunch, as you’d want and hope with good cannoli. So I think it depends on how you like your filling and if you like texture. Out of Blue Star and Marineve I prefer Marineve, and out of Tamborrino and Dolcetti I prefer Tamborrino. My husband and I also compared the vanilla fillings and our preference on that one was Blue Star. But hey, you won’t go too far wrong with any of these places, and many of their other sweets.
Blue Star Cakes, 267 Lyons Road, Russell Lea, Ph (02) 9713 9940
Marineve Pasticceria, 71 Ramsay Road, Five Dock, Ph (02) 9712 2293
Dolcetti Pasticceria, 294 Great North Road, Wareemba Ph (02) 9713 8880
Pasticceria Tamborrino, 75 Great North Road, Five Dock, Ph (02) 9712 1461