Recently, I went to a place called Isgro Pasticceria in Philadelphia to try the cannoli.
Now, there's good reason to go to this Italian bakery to sample cannoli. First off, they've been doing this since 1904, and the cannoli is seen as their signature item. Second, theirs are "the best". How can I tell this? Well, they have a big sign on the window that says so, and their website is bestcannoli.com. I like that moxie!
But how are they? I picked up three to see.
Of interest: their cannoli were pre-filled, not filled to order. I will be honest, I did not ask what the reason was. I know that for some bakeries, they go through them so fast that they don't need to fill to order.
First was the classic cannoli. Man, was this thing good. The shell was crispy, the filling filled the whole shell (I despise it when there's a gap in the center!), and the flavor of the filling was fantastic. It was less sweet than some cannolis I have tried, and even almost slightly crumbly--it really was ricotta-esque, not over-sugared, but creamy enough to hold together until it got into your mouth, where it disintegrated into a creamy crumbly oblivion of deliciousness, speckled with chocolate morsels.
Next was the vanilla mousse cannoli. It looked very promising, and the flavor was good--but the texture of the lighter mousse against the shell just didn't work. I think that the key to a good cannoli is the balance of flavor, texture, and a nice heft - so this one, while clearly well made, just did not do it for me. And yes, this is colored by my personal preference for a classic cannoli.
The chocolate mousse-filled cannoli was a bit better, texturewise: while again, the lightness of the mousse threw me off, this one had the ends coated in chocolate, and when a bite was taken of the filling, shell, and chocolate dipped section, it made for a nice combination. Once again, great flavor on all aspects.
Overall, I vote that you make Isgro a destination when you're in Philadelphia--it's quite near the main drag of the famous Italian Market, and if you love cannoli, you will enjoy trying their variety to see how they stack up. In my opinion, I found the classic to be a slightly different, but very excellent, specimen of cannoli. So my advice is to be sure to try the classic first!
Isgro Pasticceria, 1009 Christian Street, Philadelphia; online here.