It was a friendly but hard-fought competition.
Ricotta-filled pastry bags in hand, bakers from across the South Bay and up the Peninsula filled hundreds of cannoli shells for the Little Italy San Jose Foundation’s first-ever Cannoli Tournament on May 6. There were nonnas with decades-old recipes, professional bakers, restaurant cooks and catering specialists.
The bracket-style competition ensured some very tough rounds. And truth be told, judging cannoli is harder than judging, say, chili. There are simply fewer variables with cannoli: You’ve got your filling and you’ve got your shell. And there are lots of good versions out there.
Two hours into the competition, the three judges — Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito; National Italian American Foundation regional VP Jeffrey Capaccio; and yours truly, a half-Italian journalist — were having to take extra nibbles to determine a winner in each bracket. (Whoever said “you can’t have too much of a good thing” never judged a cannoli competition. As Esposito emailed the day after, “Stanotte sognavo cannoli,” which translates to “Last night I dreamed of cannolis.”)
In the end, two Peninsula professional bakeries were left to vie for the title. And both came away winners.
La Biscotteria, of Redwood City, won the judges’ title for best cannoli. Romolo’s Cannoli, of San Mateo, took home the people’s choice title.
The other contenders included Dolce Sicilia, a mother-son Sicilian baking company/caterer based in San Jose; Holy Cannoli, a startup baking company, also based in San Jose; The Charming Kitchen, San Jose bakers/caterers who specialize in cannoli parties; the pizzeria restaurant A Slice of New York (San Jose, Sunnyvale); and two longtime home bakers, Mary’s Cannoli (Campbell) and Teresa Cefalu Dirkson Cannoli (San Jose).
Bel Bacio, the new Italian coffeehouse and lunch spot in San Jose’s Little Italy neighborhood, hosted the competition.