Ole’s Cannoli at the Minnesota State Fair

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

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.

Courtesy Ole’s Cannoli

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

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table


  1. Annette

    Hi Pam and Marta, As your neighbor it’s hard not to notice the flurry of activity going on over there . I wish you the best in your state fair adventure! I’m happy to be a part of the pre-fair taste panel. Thanks for the review Heavy Table AP

  2. Colleen

    When in the north end of Boston, skip Modern, skip Mikes go around the corner to Marias.. much better and no long touristy wait just you and the locals.

  3. James Norton

    “Much better”? Come on! I’ve been to Maria’s, and I prefer Mike’s. You tell me “better,” OK, that’s an opinion. But “much better”? Impossible! A good Mike’s cannoli with pistachio on it is a great cannoli. You can get “arguably better” (example: I thought Capone’s tended to be better, mostly because they filled not just that day or evening, but actually on the fly), or “personal preference better,” but not much better.

  4. Lauren

    Strangely enough, Aida, the mediterranean restaurant on 66th and Penn makes the best cannoli I’ve had in Minnesota. My east-coast transplant husband agrees with me on this one! I’m excited to try a cannoli from Ole’s at the fair – they look delish!

  5. Claire

    But does she bake her own Cannoli shells or just buy & fill them? I’m guessing the latter. The only true good cannoli are baked same day & filled on order like you find at East Coast Italian Bakeries.

  6. James Norton

    Ole’s Cannoli contracts with a baker to make their own shells (as opposed to buying them commercially / off the rack.) I think the quality is definitely there – try ’em and post if you agree or feel otherwise.

Comments are closed.