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“EXPLORING THE LIFESTYLE AND GENEROSITY OF TAMPA BAY”

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So you’ve eaten all the pie in the house but your seasonal sugar jones is still in full effect. Withdrawal is setting in and something must be done — fast. Sure, you could get some cake or cookies or cupcakes or cobbler or even more pie or, heck, you could even hunt down that box of chocolate-covered cherries Aunt Shirley sent two Christmases ago. Panicking, you wonder “Did I really throw out that fruitcake?”

Stop. Breathe.

How ’bout a nice cannoli? It’s the perfect time of year for cannoli because every time of year is perfect for cannoli. And these adorable little tubes pack a big sugar wallop.

Cannoli originated in Sicily, of that there is no argument. Most histories trace the treat back to the 10th or 11th century when Arabs ruled the island. One legend maintains that they were invented by a harem as a phallic tribute to their Sultan.

But let’s not get too far afield. Our two combatants are: La Segunda Bakery & Cafe on 4th Street in St. Pete and Sorrento Sweets downtown.

La Segunda

The cafe is an offshoot of the renowned bakery that’s been the go-to for Cuban bread and other goodies in Tampa for more than a hundred years. The St. Pete location opened in the spring of 2022. The smallish space boasts an impressive baked goods case. A cheese Danish the size of a Frisbee caught my eye. But no, I was here for cannoli, which weren’t all that large.

At 2 p.m. on Monday, we ordered two cannoli ($3.54 each), which came in a small box, and took our treats to a table in the massive breezeway. No plate, so I made do with a napkin.

Appearance

A basic cannoli, as I know it, with dark-chocolate chips on each end of the rolled pastry concealing the white filling.

Texture and Taste

The pastry was more spongey than crusty. It gave way easily to the filling, which was was smooth and creamy, and more sweet than cheesy. The chocolate chips added some welcome crunch and sharp flavor.

I’m always surprised at how these little sugar bombs fill you up. I didn’t even take a bite out of the second, in part because we were headed to …

Sorrento Sweets

It was an easy 10-minute drive to this cozy coffee shop, wedged into a line of businesses in the 600 block of Central Avenue. We lucked into a nearby parking spot. Sorrento’s small sign made the place a little tricky to find. The brand was founded in Port Richey by Salvatore Patuzo, who named the business after his hometown in Italy. The St. Pete location opened in January 2021, joining the flagship and one in Tampa’s Hyde Park Village.

In the St. Pete store, a few folks were using the cafe area as a workspace. Christmas decorations were in full effect, but — thankfully — no Holiday music. I’m Grinchy about Holiday music, especially before Thanksgiving.

A lone cannoli ($3.98) sat on the top row of the bakery case. The counter person informed me that it was just for exhibition and she could certainly get me two.

Appearance

A charming presentation. The two cannoli sat on a white plate in colorful wrappers. The swirled filling sprouted proudly from the pastry. I wondered about the smidgen of chocolate sprinkles instead of chips.

Texture and Taste

The crust was crispier than the competition’s, but not so much that it crackled and fell apart. The filling was clearly the star attraction of this cannoli. It was less sweet than that of La Segunda, and also denser. The stronger ricotta flavor imbued the pastry with a subtle tartness. The chocolate sprinkles were a non-factor.

Because of this cannoli’s generous amount of filling — and the fact that I had just eaten one — I struggled to finish it. But spurred by yumminess, I hung in there and succeeded.

And the Winner of the Holy Cannoli! Bakery Battle Is …

Sorrento Sweets.

Although I’m no expert, the evidence points to Sorrento’s being more authentically Sicilian. And I enjoyed the muted sweetness.

My wife and son hectored me about pitting what is effectively a Cuban bakery against a more decidedly Italian one. But La Segunda makes cannoli, so fair game. It finishes segunda.

They urged me to include Mazzaro’s, and I agreed, but on one condition: if someone picked up a cannoli and brought it back to the FFF Lab™. On Wednesday morning, Bonnie schlepped daughter-in-law and granddaughter to Mazzaro’s to pick up some Thanksgiving stuff. Upon return, they were empty-handed of cannoli.

My wife said the lines at the bakery counter were 10 deep.

 

 

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