A Native New Englander Shares The 11 Best Spots To Grab A Cannoli In Boston

There's a laundry list of the Italian desserts that everyone should try at least once, including panna cotta, tiramisu, and of course, Italian cookies. But the one that is likely the most well-known is the cannoli. The classic, Sicilian cannoli is made with a fried shell, rolled up so that it can easily support a thick, cheesy filling made with ricotta, whole milk, and sugar. Before the cannoli is consumed, it's often dipped into toppings like chopped pistachios or chocolate chips.

And there's perhaps no better U.S. city to devour cannoli in than Boston: a haven for Italian American cuisine. The North End, an Italian ethnic enclave, historically supported a large population who came across the Atlantic. Many of these new arrivals and their families opened Italian restaurants to make a life for themselves, as well as make food that reflected their heritage. The legacy of this immigration persists today, as seen by the number of restaurants and pastry shops in the area serving Italian staples like the cannoli.

While there are a lot of spots to get cannoli in Boston, you don't want to waste your time on one with a mushy, limp shell. As someone who frequents the Boston area, I've cultivated a list of some of the quality spots where you need to stop for a truly good cannoli — meaning one with a balance of sweetness, a perfectly fried shell, and an array of toppings. Some are in the North End, while others are spread throughout the city.

Mike's Pastry (Multiple locations)

If you hear the phrase "best cannoli" mentioned in the same sentence as "Boston," Mike's Pastry is bound to come up. And it's easy to see why this spot is not only one of the best bakeries in Boston, but also one of the top spots to grab a cannoli. You'll see hordes of people on the street holding the double-twined white box, which speaks volumes to how much of a Boston institution this place truly is.

Mike's doesn't just offer quality cannoli in seemingly every flavor, including espresso-infused ricotta cream, Nutella, amaretto, and hazelnut, but it also offers an array of other pastries at its shop. When I'm in the city, I, surprisingly, don't go to Mike's for its cannoli — but I will grab a lobster tail. This pastry has a flaky, laminated dough shell that's more delicate than a croissant, and it's filled with the sweetest, lightest cream I've ever had. Honestly, you can't go wrong with either pastry.

Mike's has three locations across the city, including in the North End, Cambridge, and Somerville. And if you don't happen to be visiting Boston anytime soon, you can always order your favorite Italian pastries online — it's just not the same experience as standing in the long lines and staring into the jam-packed pastry case with awe. 


(617) 742-3050

Multiple locations

Bova's Bakery in the North End

Bova's is another kingpin in the competition for Boston's best cannoli. This shop has been operating for nearly 100 years and caters to Bostonians seeking high-quality, homestyle Italian pastries and sweet treats. Though it's most well-known for its delicious, layered tiramisu and scratch-made cannoli shells, you'll also find eclairs, turnovers, sfogliatelle, and lobster tails in its bakery case.

One surprising thing about Bova's Bakery is that it's open 24/7, which is perfect for when you're a little buzzed and need a sweet treat to indulge in. I won't be the person to say that Bova's is better than Mike's, but it's certainly a better spot to go when you're craving something sweet and don't want to wait in line for it. And while the selection isn't as varied as Mike's, there's more than enough variety in the different cookies, cakes, and pies that this bakery also serves to justify a visit. 


(617) 523-5601

134 Salem St, Boston, MA 02113

Modern Pastry Shop in the North End

If you value the experience of mixing and matching your cannoli filling, shell, and coating, then Modern Pastry is the shop to go to. Its location in the North End allows customers to build their own cannoli by selecting between chocolate, mini, or plain shells, fillings, and toppings. While the ricotta filling is the most traditional, you can also opt for a vanilla custard (also called yellow cream), chocolate custard, whipped cream, or my favorite, the Chantilly cream — which combines the thick vanilla custard with whipped cream. While the latter might get a scoff from traditional cannoli lovers, it's a testament to how this shop is able to customize a classic dessert to its patrons' liking. 

Besides the cannoli, you can also stock up on a range of Italian pastries (and non-Italian pastries, as well), including eclairs, ricotta pie, cupcakes, macarons, and more. There's something for everyone at Modern — so you might want to stick to a mini cannoli so that you can try all of it.


(617) 523-3783

257 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

Parziale's Bakery in the North End

Parziale's is a popular spot in the North End that does more than just great cannoli. You'll find an array of round loaves, ciabattas, and even pizza slices for sale, as well as Italian cookies and biscotti.

Parziale's cannoli shells are deep-fried in-house, and you can really taste the freshness and the crispiness of each of them. It also helps that all of its cannoli are made to order, so they stay fresh and crunchy until you're ready to eat one. When you bite into one of its cannoli, you'll immediately be greeted by a sweet, thick, and deliciously creamy ricotta filling that perfectly fills your belly and quells your craving for something sweet. Plus, Parziale's doesn't skimp out on the cannoli filling; the ends are practically bursting with chocolate chips and creamy ricotta. Although the cannoli options at this Boston bakery are slim compared to other shops on this list, the artisan craft that goes into each shell is worth a visit (and a taste). 


(617) 523-6368

80 Prince St, Boston, MA 02113

Caffé Vittoria in the North End

Caffé Vittoria is an eclectic little Italian café that's a must-stop if you're visiting the city. It even touts itself as being Boston's oldest, and its vintage décor makes it easy to see why. The cannoli at this Boston spot are "different," to quote one of my friends who admits to making frequent stops at this spot whenever he's in Boston. He hypothesizes it may be because the lemon notes are more pronounced in this cannoli than others, and it's something I would wholeheartedly agree with. You can order a plain cannoli or one that's dipped in chocolate and rolled with your choice of chocolate chips or pistachio.

If you aren't exactly a fan of cannoli, fear not; this spot also offers an impressive array of pastries, including lobster tails, ricotta pie, and tiramisu. You can also order a scoop of gelato to go with your cannoli, or a warm, milky coffee beverage. Its cappuccinos are my go-to, and the cocoa powder sprinkle on top is just the cherry on top (or, "the chocolate chips on the cannoli"). 


(617) 227-7606

290-296 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

Caffé Paradiso in the North End

Caffé Paradiso is at the forefront of Italian pastry perfection, even if it's a location often left off the list of Boston's go-to cannoli spots. This café, which opened its doors in 1962, is one that you won't want to skip over. The crispiness of its shells and the smoothness of the filling inside of them make it a must-visit on your tour of Beantown's best.

Caffé Paradiso starts each day as a typical café, filled with a menu of espresso beverages, perfect for enjoying alongside a cannoli, baba rum, or slice of biscotti. But at night, you can stop in for a scoop of one of its made-in-house gelato flavors or a specialty cocktail served from its bar. It's a welcoming and inviting spot, where you can skip the lines to get your hands on an excellent, melt-in-your-mouth cannoli and more.


(617) 742-1768

255 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

Dolce Vita Ristorante in the North End

Dolce Vita is about as old-school of an Italian joint as you can get. Its menu is filled with the standard Italian classics, including soups, massive portions of pasta, fish, and veal, but the real star of the show is the dessert menu. Although the coppa mascarpone and fragole or the Chocolate Temptation cake might pull you in, you'll want to, first and foremost, order a cannoli. Each shell has a coating of chocolate on the inside and is filled with classic ricotta, chocolate chips, and for an Italian twist, candied fruit. And if you have room for more, by all means, order the rest of the items on its menu. These shells are quite crisp and crunchy, and its very clear that this Hanover Street staple puts care and craft inside of every dish it puts out.

Dolce Vita is a family-owned establishment that makes you feel welcomed, whether you're a tourist or Boston local. Its owner, Franco Graceffa, is known to greet patrons with a wild enthusiasm as they walk through the door. Hospitality is a mainstay on the menu, and the delicious cannoli are just an added bonus.


(617) 720-0422

221 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

Ristorante Limoncello in the North End

Limoncello isn't just the name of an Italian liqueur, it's also one of the North End's beloved Italian spots. It also has a more unconventional story than other spots; owner Maurizio Badolato worked as a waiter in Calabria, Italy before he got lucky off a $5 lottery ticket. After becoming a millionaire, he opened this Boston restaurant, inspired by the flavors of Italy and his late mother, Concetta Badolato. Among its menu items, you'll find her famous meatball recipe, along with Italian classics like chicken piccata and seafood pasta. But the real star of Ristorante Limoncello's menu is its cannoli.

The cream inside of these shells is delectably fluffy and oozes from each one, which is about as delectable to look at as it is to eat. Enjoy it at one of the shop's inside tables or sit on the patio outside. The cannoli options here aren't as plentiful as a dedicated Italian bakery, but it sure is a sweet spot to enjoy great Italian fare in Boston.


(617) 523-4480

190 North St, Boston, MA 02113

Trattoria II Panino in the North End

Trattoria II Panino, also located in the North End, is a must-stop for anyone who craves traditional Italian fare with a vibrant setting to boot. This Hanover Street establishment is open every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and serves everything from a mean chicken Parm to a four-meat ragú with meatballs, sausage, braciola, and short ribs over pasta. If you manage to devour your whole meal (or, as I recommend, putting some of it in a to-go box for later), you may still have room left for a cannoli. And this is one restaurant that you would be wise to plan your whole meal around the pastry.

The chocolate chip-adorned cannoli are great for enjoying with one of Trattoria's most renowned cocktails, the espresso martini. The smoothness of the ricotta cream and the subtle chocolate notes make this an excellent pairing for a night out in Beantown.


(617) 720-1336

280 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

Spinelli's Pasta and Pastries in East Boston

The North End may be home to some of Boston's most classic Italian spots, but you can find some options outside of the neighborhood, too. Spinelli's, for one, is a great place to chow down on classic Italian fare, like Alfredo, stuffed shells, chicken marsala, and ziti with your choice of protein, all available for takeout. Spinelli's also has a catering and event space in Lynnfield, MA — but if you're just grabbing a cannoli, the East Boston spot is where to go.

If you look closely in its pastry case, you're bound to spy crisp cannoli shells just waiting to be filled to the brim with ricotta cream. This shop goes heavy with the powdered sugar and applies just enough chocolate chips to give you the classic Italian flavor without overwhelming the cream with too much chocolate. There's nothing too complicated about these cannoli. Just be prepared that the filling leans rather citrusy.


(617) 567-1992

282 Bennington St, Boston, MA 02128

Royal Pastry Shop (Multiple locations)

If you are in the nearby towns of Cambridge or Lexington, it would be wise to make a pit-stop at the Royal Pastry Shop. It's definitely one of the sleeper hits of Boston's pastry scene at large. You'll find an array of items, including the beloved custard eclairs, Italian cookies, and beautifully decorated cakes on its menu. But the cannoli here are really a true treat that are worth ordering above all else. Like my other favorite pastry shops in Boston, Royal does simple well. Its cannoli filling is soft and creamy and is perfectly adorned with the right balance of chocolate chips to cannoli shell. You can also order your cannoli naked, if you want to take in the full contrast of the crisp shell to creamy filling.

This shop doesn't have a website, and I recommend arriving early to get your hands on a cannoli (or two) before they sell out. Even if this requires venturing outside of the city limits, it's a journey worth taking.


Multiple locations


Boston is a city jam-packed with Italian fare, including excellent pizza shops and spots to enjoy some of the best pasta dishes in the U.S. But its pastry scene is even more impressive. In order to find which shops are worth stopping at, I considered my own personal experience on my frequent travels up to Boston, as well as reviews and recommendations from friends. In order to encapsulate the best options that the city has to offer, I not only tried to venture out of the North End (Boston's Italian district), but also to include both pastry shops as well as restaurants that serve cannoli for dessert.

Above all, I looked at the consistency and the texture of the cannoli offerings at each spot. While having an array of cannoli flavors to choose from surely boosted some spots on this list, others offered only one cannoli option — but still demonstrated a deliberate and intentional approach to the craft of making this Italian pastry. The proper cannoli should have a crisp crust, be filled to order, and have a balance of flavors in both the filling and the shell.