• A gangster's favourite (murder weapon), Cannoli.

    In lieu of MyLittleVespa winning the “Canolo Award” for services to Italian food and culture, we decided to look at the award naming sicilian delight. 

    ‘Leave the gun, take the Cannoli’ uttered Peter Clemenza after he and his assailant killer, Rocco Lampone disposed of his now ex driver, Paulie Gatto. Words that would be included into the top 100 most famous film quotes of all time, and introduce a whole generation of non-Italians to the sweet Sicilian dessert.

    My own love affair with cannoli started when I was young, around seven years old. I remember that the local pasticceria had a few items left in the cake display, the popular sfogliatelle had all but disappeared, the barman joking that my dad had been in earlier that morning. All that was left were two pizzette and a cannolo.

    Ever since that day I have endeavoured to find a cannolo (singular) ensuring that the ricotta is fresh, the candied fruit is minimal and that the chocolate pieces plentiful. This is how a cannolo should be, for me anyway. Yes, the shell should be crispy with that tinge of citrus and the crunch should be a sensory explosion, but finding ones like these is like witnessing a cannoli shaped solar eclipse, very hard at best.

    And yet the cannolo is a dessert which should have more recognition than the Italian American gangster films set in the 1930’s or the Italian American gangster series set in the 1990’s, are you noticing a pattern?

    The cannolo’s origin is steeped in history. Some argue that Cicero’s description of a “sweet lactose tube” was the original cannolo.

    Move forward a few hundred years and further historic writings have shown that elsewhere on the Island of Sicily, Caltanisetta to be precise, a conclave of arab women would dedicate their time in the production of favourite arab food, in particular pastry’s and desserts, cannoli being one such treat.

    But cannoli's history is also dated to carnevale, Italy's version of Mardi Gras, the Shrove Tuesday/New Orleans kind not the Manchester Canal St rendition. Carnevale celebrates the beginning of spring and subsequently it is hypothesized that the cannoli were a symbol of fertility, and their shape would suggest who it was the townspeople were bestowing their good wishes to. Luckily for the townspeople and for us today, cannoli were seen as too good to have only once a year and have become a pastry that can be enjoyed all year round!

    And why are cannoli so popular in Italian American heritage? Once again we have to turn to Sicily for the answer. It is estimated that over 7 million Sicilians emigrated to America between 1876 - 1925, many searched for, and created businesses that tailored to their very gastronomic needs; cannoli being a must.Whilst ricotta was hard to come by as well as other specific ingredients, the immigrants developed new techniques and used a widely disputed recipe to recreate their favourite dessert.

    The cannolo is a piece of food nostalgia, loved by many Italians across the nation, and probably more by those living abroad; perhaps because it's so recognisable and so hard to produce that those who choose to make them, know what they are doing.

    But beware as the cannolo is also the chosen weapon of many a fictional mafioso. In the first Godfather, the cannoli are just something that you collect after committing a murder. In the third Godfather they are used as a murder weapon of Mafia don and consilieri, Don Altobello. Gorging on his sixth, yes sixth, cannolo, Don Altobello discovers that he's been poisoned when its all too late.

    The moral of the cannolo tale, enjoy them. Unless you are some fictional don, the worst they could do is add to your waist line, as I discovered in the Summer of '05.

    9 comments → A gangster's favourite (murder weapon), Cannoli.

    1. Congratulations on the award, it is well deserved. And I can't think of a more delicious way to celebrate. Just waiting for the deli to open here to go get my cannoli (plural)!

    2. Thank you Elaine, it's just nice to be noticed :) Enjoy your cannoli, be careful if you are driving around with mobsters in your back seat ;)

    3. I may be wrong, but isn't it pretty much the New York and Jersey mob families that are most related to the canoli? I am picturing the 30's era Chicago mobs as more booze and speakeasy related.

    4. I think you could be right on that one. I don't really know. Prohibition was more stringent in Chicago because of Al Capone for obvious reasons. Cannoli certainly where there were bigger enclaves of Sicilian Italians so yes, New York and Jersey really have more of a history.

    5. Well if the 6th one wasn't poisoned, he may have burst instead....he was destined to die. Six!!!

    6. Gino, congratulations for your much-deserved Cannolo Award. I'm glad it inspired this great article :)

    7. Good point. Never considered that!

    8. Grazie Paolo, and thank you for the recognition. Much appreciated :)

    9. I had no idea that the connoli had this much rich history. They are definitely some of the most delicious desserts, and I had one too many when I visited Italy. There's nothing quite like the crunchy texture and sweet filling of a cannoli. Uh oh, now I'm really craving one. Thanks for sharing this!

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