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Cannoli wars: Mike’s v. Modern.

Any Bostonian worth their salt can tell you where you go to get a great cannoli in this city: Hanover Street, the North End. But we tend to be divided on where you can actually get the BEST cannoli in Boston.

The top two contenders? Modern Pastry and Mike’s Pastry.

The golden standard has always been Mike’s. It remains top of mind as the best and is usually the first mentioned to tourists. I must have been a wide-eyed freshman in college when I got (what I thought was) the real scoop: tourists go to Mike’s, locals go to Modern.

And so, in an effort to do as the Romans, I tended toward Modern for most of my years in Boston. Yes, it was good, but whenever I’d find myself face-to-face with a Mike’s cannoli on special occasions, be it college graduation or Tuesday, I’d be surprised to find myself oozing with love for the confection. But surely, I thought, I can’t like Mike’s better. I’m from here now!

On and on my inner torment continued until Sunday night, when we had an hour to kill before meeting some friends to watch the game and decided to put the debate to rest once and for all. Which was better: Mike’s or Modern?

Andreas’ money was on Modern. So I dropped him off there to a moderate looking line (busy, for sure, but not out the door) and made my way up another block to the swarming sea of so-called tourists at Mike’s. Thinking Andreas would have surely made it through the line at Modern already, I was surprised to not see him waiting outside for me when I emerged victorious from Mike’s, single cannoli in hand.

I got all the way back to Modern and peeked in the windows, only to see him only HALFWAY through the line! Round one went to Mike’s for faster service. (Interestingly enough, as I was waiting outside Modern, I overheard several tourists going in, saying “I heard this is where the locals go instead of Mike’s!” Ha! Looks like the tables have turned.)

Then we sat down to the serious business of comparing the two very best cannolis in all of Boston.

Mike's (right) v. Modern (left)

Mike's (left) v. Modern (right)

Here are the results:

Price – Same. Both cost $2.50.

Size – ┬áMike’s was markedly larger and heavier. Markedly.

First whiff – Modern wins here. Theirs smelled of vanilla. Mike’s smelled of fried dough.

(Sadly, that was the only round Modern would win. It was all downhill for them from here…)

Shell – Mike’s. Landslide. Modern’s was denser (more like a cracker) and more tightly rolled (like a cigar). Mike’s was flaky, airy and open. Modern’s looked like it had been made by machine, again because of how tightly rolled it was (not saying it had been, just that it appeared that way in comparison). Mike’s definitely looked handmade.

Filling – Mike’s again. Modern’s was too smooth (seemed overly processed) and tasted too me of sweetened condensed milk. Mike’s had that deliciously light ricotta flavor and texture. Not to mention that Modern’s was much sweeter.

It quickly became clear to us (and even Andreas had to admit) that Mike’s has the superior cannoli. I’m not sure we would have ever realized it if not for the side by side comparison though, because for the record, Modern turns out a damn fine ┬ácannoli. But Mike’s will always have my heart. To me, it is perfect in practically every way. Crispy shell filled to the brim with fluffy ricotta. Mmm. Just how god intended.

As for our Modern cannoli, well, duh, we ate it. But due to its size, the Mike’s one lasted much longer and satisfied our craving much more.

So now it’s settled. We’ll go to Mike’s from now on and leave Modern for the wannabes.


  1. I miss Mike’s. Sigh.

  2. Leah says:

    Isn’t it true that Mike’s pastries actually come from Patsy’s Pastry Shop in Somerville??

  3. Love this! I agree — I feel like I’m supposed to champion Modern now that I’m a local, but I’ve always enjoyed my experience at Mike’s much much better. I also vividly remember a situation at Modern where we were met with some very rude customer service.

  4. [...] This is a very serious clinical trial and one worth repeating by anybody who happens to be in Boston’s North End. IRB approval is not required. [...]

  5. Robert Klein says:

    I will go to Modern next time I am out there and do a taste test. I live in California and have compared all other Cannoli’s to Mikes as the cannoli standard. I have brought home Mike’s cannolis w me on an airplane, but they never seem to make it home without eating them all! I even had colleagues send me Mike’s after being in Boston but not making it to North End, a major tragedy.

  6. cassandra says:

    My grandmother always used to take me to a busy bakery in boston, but i never quite new where. One day i realized it was mikes. i always enjoyed the colonies…they are my favorite desert! i’ve tried modern, and even being a local, i still like mike’s better (but i will never turn a conolli down :) )

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