The only Italian my mother spoke to me growing up was cannoli. There was the occasional melanzane thrown in but mom was queen of cannoli lexicon. Tragically, because they were a bit of a mission to make, appearances were reserved for special occasions and eventually disappeared into the years of my adulthood. I only saw them rise from the ashes again when my sister got married last year.
Cannoli have always held a special place for me, it was what made me feel connected to my heritage. Anything else Italian, I have learned from either University or experiences in the bel paese itself.
In Florence, there are a few places which warm my Sicilian heart and soul. Of course, when in Rome do as the Romans do. You might think “why have Sicilian sweets in the Tuscan foodland of Florence?” This is a mistake- there are only so many schiacciata alla fiorentina that you can eat. Moreover, what if you don’t have time to go to Palermo to get your cannoli fix?
First- understand that cannoli means “tubes” and are fried pastry dough filled with a smooth, sweetened ricotta mix usually with candied fruit and dark chocolate pieces. My mother was really serious about powdering the just-fried dough tubes with confectionery sugar. The timing had to be perfect. These sweets were initially intended as a carnival indulgence but they gained so much popularity that now they are ubiquitous with any eatery offering something Sicilian.
My mother was on to something only making them once in a great while. If you think about it- they are fried cheese and sugar chocolate yachts- not tubes! However, if you are going to indulge do it right.
When in Cannoli heaven, pair with the right wine. Don’t ever have cannoli with anything other than a sweet wine. The bitterness from tannins in red wine can clash with the sweet dessert. The usual citrus notes and dry aromatics of white wine can confuse your palate as well- not creating a symphonic melange. In Sicily they produce a wine array of sweet wines called “Vini Passiti/Vino Passito”. Look for Zibbibo and Passito di Pantelleria.
Quick 101 tip about Vino Passito: This means wines made from grapes dried on straw mats. When the grapes are dried, this creates a sort of raisin-ing and a higher sugar content. What happens is that the yeast in the wine-making process, has lots more friends to party with to yield more alcohol. So be mindful of how much of the stuff you drink- it’s potent.
Expect this wine to be amber in color, orange blossom honey-like in flavor. It is when I use the term “pretty” to describe it. It is pretty.
If you are in Florence, the following places offer delicious Cannoli and Sweet Wine to pair:
Carabe’- This is a Sicilian-style gelateria that is really friendly. They get their cannoli shell sent from Palermo daily and are notable for traditional Sicilian gelato flavors like Zuppa Inglese, Pistachio and citrus fruits which are sourced from the sun rich region. They are also great for Granite. How did I get on the gelato topic? I must confess- I only discovered these places because I have a gelato addiction. I am sure there are bakeries where you can also get cannoli but these are my picks. At Carabe’, they offer a little complimentary serving of Zibbibo with every cannolo. Winning.
Ara’- If you are looking for a stylish, gourmet swanky street food shop- Ara’ is your cannoli man. They have an array of Sicilian street foods including arancine (hand-held baseball sized fried rice balls filled with cheese and meat or other fillings) but they also kill it with traditional Sicilian sweets like marzipan, almond cookies, and you guessed it- cannoli made completely from scratch. The guy who owns the place is who I’d like to deem the Don of ricotta in Florence. His ricotta gelato and sweets will bring you to the end of the world. They also have some sweet passito wines to pair with your cannoli injection. Just ask look or ask for a vino passito or zibbibo, they will have it behind the drool-worthy food showcases.
I better go- I think a cannolo is calling me.
For the Sicilian blood rushing through my heart,
The Curious Appetite
Want to travel outside of Tuscany with your palate in Florence? Contact me to arrange a foodie tasting tour to taste a more multicultural Florence. Interested in food touring IN Sicily? I have a couple food and wine experts to put you in touch with! Contact me for more details.
This post was apart of the online blogger group: Italian Food and Wine Travel (#ItalianFWT)
Here is a list of all us Italophile wineaux foodies talking about Sicily this month:
Vino Travels – Wine & Food of Sicily: Inzolia & Arancini
Curious Appetite – Sicilian Cannoli and wine pairings
Cooking Chat – Pairing for Linguini with Cod and Asparagus
Rockin Red Blog – Celebrating Sicily on #ItalianFWT
Enofylz wine blog – A Taste of Sicily-Tuna and Seabass Spiedini #ItalianFWT
FoodWineClick – From Etna Bianco to Marsala, A Sicilian Wine Tour
Join the conversation on Twitter Saturday April 4th, searching the hashtag #ItalianFWT