Mike’s vs Modern: A cannoli rivalry decided

Boston, Massachusetts

When most people think of Bean Town rivalries, they think Yankees-Red Sox. But, believe it or not, there’s a far greater struggle in Boston, one that has polarized residents, stirred hatred and spawned a seemingly interminable debate. I’m talking, of course, about cannolis.

On Hanover Street in Boston’s North End, two historic Italian bakeries — Modern and Mike’s — have battled for decades, claiming that their custard filled puff-pastries are simply The Best. And while just about every newspaper, foodie Web site and blogger has gotten in on the debate, on my trip up here this weekend, it seemed only fair to give them both a try.

First up: Modern, named Best Neighborhood Sweets last year by Boston. This small shop was bustling with activity as locals and tourists alike salivated over the refrigerated cases brimming with delectable pastries. The smell of freshly baked sweets filed the air while the whir of a coffee grinder signaled a fresh batch was brewing.

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Because all of the cannolis are made to order at Modern, the shell was fresh, crunchy and a little flaky. The overflowing filling had a sweet — but not too sweet — taste and a wonderful pudding-like consistency. Consensus: it would be hard to get much better.

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Or would it?

Not more than a hundred yards down the street sat Mike’s. Packed with throngs of tourists wearing bright yellow Cheers ponchos, the welcome was a bit overwhelming. Where did the line end? Was there even a line?

We got distracted and wandered over to the display cases — which showcased the countless cannoli flavors. There was mousse. And honey nut. Choosing could be difficult.

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But to keep it simple (and fair) we got a chocolate chip with a dash of powdered sugar (why not, right?). It wasn’t made to order but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. The shell was thicker and the filling tasted sweeter than Modern. But still, absolutely delicious.

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So, Modern or Mike’s? For me, a perfect cannoli would have the freshness and personalization of Modern but the shell and filling of Mike’s.

But I’m a native New Yorker. Which means Bostonians could care less about my opinion.

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