Sign up for our newsletters   

Baltimore City Paper home.
Print Email


Take the Cannoli

Sam Holden

By Michael Yockel | Posted 2/26/2003

Quite perceptibly, Nino Germano realizes that he is messing with the goose that laid the golden egg when asked his mother's age.

"Is it really necessary?" the La Scala chef-owner inquires, stalling for time. "I don't want her yelling at me." Pause. "OK, 60."

"Now you're in the doghouse," kids Carol Seidenberg, his business and marketing manager.

Germano acutely understands that when it comes to cannoli, his Little Italy restaurant's signature dessert, that his mother, Pina, holds the keys to the kingdom. From her home in Timonium, Pina Germano fashions the dessert's filling using cream rather than the standard ricotta cheese. "They're real light," explains her son, 40, "and not nearly as sweet as everybody else's."

La Scala's "original" cannoli, as Germano terms it, contains a "hint of lemon zest," but patrons also can choose from more exotic versions, brimming with chocolate, hazelnut, or espresso flavors. "Usually, you can get them half-and-half," he adds, "because we stuff them to order."

To encase these various fillings, Germano and his sous chef Ray Garcia handcraft each cannoli's delicate and crispy shell, making the dough, rolling it out, and baking it at La Scala. The result: shells that are considerably flakier and thinner than those found elsewhere. Most restaurants obtain their cannoli from commercial manufacturers, who use machines capable of cranking out thousands of shells per hour. "They simply cannot produce them as thin as we do," Germano says.

Pina Germano's cannoli filling recipe made the transatlantic voyage with her from her home in Barcellona, Sicily, a town located on the northeast coast of the island, not far from Messina. "They still make [cannoli] with ricotta cheese there," Nino says, "but these [with cream] are more popular, because they're not as sweet."

Mother and son began offering the dessert locally about a dozen years ago at Zia Pina, the Belair Road pizzeria they owned and operated in Gardenville, and they have continued to do so since opening the 30-table La Scala in November 1995, where Nino has developed a reputation for his veal chop with an array of mushrooms, Sicilian shrimp toast, and grilled Caesar salad. Topped off, naturally, by a cannoli; on average, Germano estimates the restaurant sells between 150 to 250 each week.

Somewhat weirdly, at La Scala the cannoli is a seasonal dish, available nine months out of the year. Translated: when Pina Germano stays put in her Timonium cannoli lab. She spends the remaining months back in Sicily. "The other day a lady called," Germano remembers with a laugh, "and asked if it was cannoli season yet. It's only cannoli season when Mom is in town."

Related stories

Feature archives

More Stories

Thanks For the Memories (12/23/2009)
2007: I had a borderline awful time in Bucharest—and I kind of miss it

Vini Vidi Vito (4/8/2009)
Vito Simone came to Baltimore, saw opportunity, and conjured a real estate fantasy

Preacher, Teacher, Forger, Spy (4/16/2008)
From Bounty Hunter to Bible Thumper, Pastor Anthony Hill Presents a Paradox

More from Michael Yockel

In the Cut (12/29/2004)
Charlotte Zwerin

Just Dandy (12/29/2004)
John Stephen

Close to Heaven (1/28/2004)
A New MICA Retrospective Examines Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Uncommon Combination of Heart, Groin, and Brains

Comments powered by Disqus
CP on Facebook
CP on Twitter