Marta Lindsey’s pitch was persuasive: She’d bring over a box of the cannoli that her stand, Ole’s Cannoli, will debut at this year’s State Fair. I’d try them. We’d talk cannoli.
Lindsey’s background is less-than-traditional for a cannoli smith — she’s a Roseville Area High School grad of Scandinavian descent living and working in Oakland, CA, but still missing home. “The Fair is part of my Minnesota heritage — my kitchen is decorated with Minnesota State Fair stuff … it’s a serious thing,” she says. “I always fly home for the Fair; I’ve been to the Fair every year of my life.”
Lindsey and I share a common point of reference: we both lived in Boston in the early aughts and fell in love with the cannoli of the city’s still heavily Italian-American North End, where vendors like Modern and Mike’s nightly sling thousands of pastries for the throngs that crowd Hanover street. (My own favorites hailed from Capone Foods in Somerville, but when I brought out-of-towners to the North End, a trip through the crowd at Mike’s was a mandatory experience.)
Ole’s Cannoli do justice to their Boston brethren and are the best I’ve had in the Upper Midwest. I tried two varieties: One was the classic pistachio-dusted variety, the other was sprinkled (in neo-classical style) with mini-chocolate chips. The shells had a pronounced, lightly fried crunch to them — neither overly brittle nor soggy like cardboard. In both cases, the shell complemented the creamy, cheesecake-evocative filling of ricotta, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar. In short, Ole’s classically stuffed, filled-to-order cannoli dodge two typical stumbling blocks: cheap, gummy, over-sweet pudding-like filling, and pre-filled shells that sog out and turn nasty.
At the Fair, Ole’s will nod to the Scandinavian half of its name by serving a strong, dark roasted coffee imported from Sweden. And thus will the Italy / Scandinavia / Minnesota loop be closed. “I still love Minnesota, and it was like: How can I still have a relationship with it?” Lindsey says. “They’re beautiful things — cannoli, the State Fair, and we can have them together. And wouldn’t it be cool if I had a reason to come to Minnesota for a little bit longer every year?”
Ole’s Cannoli, available at Heritage Square at the Minnesota State Fair