And the winner is ...
Typical off-the-shelf cannolo with chocolate drops (I used this as the baseline for comparison)
Last year I drove to the small village of Dattilo to buy what had been claimed in an Italian food magazine to be the best cannoli in Sicily (and thus the world!). Although it proved to be a good cannolo I also heard that the village of Napola (just a few kilometres away) also claimed to make the best cannoli.
I decided, therefore, that on my next visit to Sicily I should compare the two products and make my own judgement. Now that I am here I have made good on that promise.
This was not, on my part, a formal contest by any means. The only real test to establish the best Sicilian cannoli would be with a formal panel of judges and the best products from every municipality. A mammoth undertaking!
Both Dattilo and Napola are small villages that fall under the government of Paceco which, in turn, falls under Trapani on the west of Sicily.
Bar Erice, Napola
Napola is the larger and older of the two villages. Bar Erice in Napola has been producing cannoli for 51 years while Euro Bar in Dattilo is the relative newcomer - 41 years!
Euro Bar, Dattilo
Cannoli (plural of cannolo) are pastries with a history that dates to the muslim occupation of Sicily, known then as the Sultanate of Sicily (AD 831-1091). The pastry is formed into a tube, hence its name (cannolo = little tube in Sicilian), and filled with a sweet ricotta cheese mix.
When buying connoli it is important to ensure that the filling is added at the time of purchase and not pre-filled. The pastry should be crisp hence pre-filling could spoil the biscuit by absorbing moisture.
The plan was simply to try out the cannoli produced by the two pasticerias and decide which was the better product. We drove from Erice to Napola, about 20 minutes, to get a coffee and a couple of cannoli from Bar Erice, then another 5 minutes to Dattilo where we bought 2 more. One cannolo from each pasticeria would have been adequate!
I applied a simple rating system against 5 criteria that were compared against a baseline using a "standard" generally available cannolo. I decided to set aside the scores for the last criteria, presentation, since it was not critical and both locations used the same sort of packaging.
The criteria were:
The Napola cannolo was a bit bigger and slightly heavier than that from Dattilo. In my opinion both of these cannoli are too big! Many places sell slightly smaller cannoli which, given their richness, are easier to consume. There are also finger-sized cannoli which avoid heartburn!
Two packets - four cannoli
Napola (L) and Dattilo (R) cannoli
The biscuit from Dattilo was “tailored” with a narrower waist but was less rigid in texture in comparison to that from Napola. My Dattilo cannolo broke, creating a mess on the table and causing difficulty to eat the remaining filling.
The Napola biscuit was harder (rather than crisper) but one of the two cannoli biscuits was broken or badly formed and, thus, should not have been served.
Both fillings were creamy though the one in the Dattilo cannolo was slightly more so.
Both cannoli had chocolate bits in the filling - more in the Napola product but not to the extent of distraction in either case. I deducted a point off the Napola and Dattilo cannoli for both using chocolate chips and for failing to offer the more traditional dried fruit as an alternative.
Napola 2 euros each
Dattilo 2.40 euros each
Both establishments provided the same packaging comprising a cardboard tray, cellophane sheet on top of the cannoli. The cannoli were then wrapped in paper and tied with coloured tape. Equal scores on presentation but I excluded these from the overall rating.
And the winner is ....
My objective was to confirm which one of the two pasticerias had the best cannoli.
The biscuit was more or less the same in the Napola and Dattilo pasticerias but both locations lost points for a couple of reasons each (Napola for serving a malformed biscuit, Dattilo for the biscuit breaking and the biscuits in both were a touch too hard).
Both versions of the filling included chocolate drops, much less in the Dattilo product, whereas I think the more traditional use of chopped regional fruit is appropriate and should at least have been offered as an option. Equally placed as far as the filling was concerned.
The Napola cannoli were slightly bigger yet cheaper (20% difference) than the Dattilo cannoli. I would have preferred smaller cannoli - that an aweful lot of cheese squeezed into the biscuit tubes
I think that neither cannolo merits the title Best (a very subjective term in any event) in Sicily but there was, overall, little difference between the two. On price (ie value) I believe Napola wins on this occasion.
More on this subject when I try other cannoli .... I've heard there is a good place in Trapani!
The drive from Erice to Napola is just 20 minutes with Dattilo another couple of minutes beyond, so we drove first to Napola.
Bar Erice, Napola
Via Milano 295
Phone 0923 861302
Euro Bar, Dattilo
Via Garibaldi 11-13
Phone 0923 861434
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