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Mike’s Pastry

December 4, 2015

A couple of weeks prior to our trip to Boston, I had seen, via social media, that a friend of mine was visiting Boston and had asked for food recommendations in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.  She received a variety of answers, but one in particular intrigued me because there was a mention of pastries.  If you know anything about me, dessert and sweets are my Achilles’ heel.  Mention of sweets has my mouth watering any time of day or night.  Of course, I immediately had to look up this particular bakery and once I saw what they specialized in, I knew I’d be able to convince my husband to make a stop since their specialty is one of his favorite desserts.


Located in Boston’s North End neighborhood, Mike’s Pastry is an institution of over 50 years in this predominantly Italian neighborhood.  Using only the finest of ingredients, including free fruit, grade A cream, butter, and eggs, amongst others, Mike’s Pastry specializes in authentic Italian pastries using authentic techniques, but sometimes with a modern twist of ingredients and flavors.  If you call yourself an Italian bakery in a largely Italian neighborhood, you know it must be good if it’s survived for over 50 years.  We knew we’d found a winner when we entered the North End neighborhood and saw one person after another carrying boxes of goodies from Mike’s Pastry.


Follow the crowds and you’ll find the pastry shop should be Mike’s Pastry’s motto.  As we approached Mike’s Pastry, there were large crowds milling about outside, some carrying Mike’s Pastry’s signature boxes, others eating goodies that they’d just purchased.  What I didn’t expect was the scene when I stepped inside the store.  It was a sea of humanity, literally.  At first, all I saw was wall-to-wall people.  After a few seconds, I realized there was a method to the madness, sort of.  What I was seeing was lines of people waiting to get to the counter and order.  And we’re not talking 1-2 lines.  More like 7-8 lines of people about 10-15 people deep per line.  There was a lady working behind the counter at the head of each line.  The idea is, you go into the store knowing exactly what you want to order, because there’s absolutely no way you have time to browse for what you want by looking at the display cases you can’t see.  When its your turn, you step up, place your order, the lady behind the counter goes around and grabs what you ordered, gives you a total, you pay her while she’s boxing up your goodies, she makes change for you and then moves on immediately to the next person in line.  While the scene is chaotic at first, these ladies really know what they’re doing and crank through the customers in a no-nonsense kind of way.  So, even though there were at least 100 people, if not more, packed inside the store, shoulder-to-shoulder, the line moved rather quickly and we were in and out in about 10 minutes time.


It’s expected that when you enter the store, you know what they offer and what you want to order.  While they make all Italian specialty pastries, what they are most known for is cannolis.  Each display case if filled with tray after tray of various flavors of cannolis, all made fresh daily inside the store.  The fresh, handmade shells are constantly deep-fried and filled by hand around the clock.  Once you’ve ordered, if you wish, before the lady behind the counter closes up your goody box, you can get a sprinkling of powered sugar dusted right over the top of your cannolis.


But, cannolis aren’t the only thing that Mike’s Pastry makes.  You can get lobster tails, a traditional Italian treat which is incredibly labor intensive to make by hand, and why you don’t find them in a lot of pastry shops.  You can get traditional Italian cookies, cakes, pie and marzipan.  We’re in Boston, so you can find Boston cream pie.  Chocolate eclairs and chocolate mousse cake is also featured in the display cases. Traditional Italian desserts of tiramisu and ricotta pie can also be found.  There’s also the classic French dessert, creme brûlée.  You can also find a variety of cupcakes: red velvet, oreo, vanilla and fudge.


Let’s get back to the cannolis, after all, that’s what we came to Mike’s Pastry for.  Cannolis are one of my husband’s favorite desserts, and with Mike’s reputation, I knew we had come to the right place.  So, how do you know what kinds of cannolis you can order?  Even though you’re standing in a store filled with so many people you can’t see the display cases, on the back wall of the store, behind the ladies, up high just below the ceiling, is an artists rendition of the various flavors of cannolis offered inside the store.  So you can order your cannolis based upon the various flavors you see painted on the wall.


And the flavors are many!  Every traditional, and some not so traditional flavors of cannolis you can imagine.  It’s just a matter of choosing what suits your taste buds.  The selection of flavors include: ricotta cheese, yellow cream, chocolate cream, chocolate chip, pistachio, caramel, mint chip, pecan caramel, chocolate mousse, espresso, amaretto, hazelnut, chocolate ricotta, limoncello, strawberry, oreo, peanut butter, florentine, and finally chocolate covered.  There’s gotta be at least one flavor in there that everyone can find to love.


My husband and I agreed to each order 2 different flavors, 4 total so we could sample a couple of flavors of cannolis.  After placing our order, the lady behind the counter quickly grabbed our cannolis, boxed them with a touch of powered sugar, quickly wrapped the box up in some twine and sent us on our way.  Our very own Mike’s Pastry box to take with us as we finish our tour of Boston.

First off, these cannolis were huge.  It’s like 3 times the size of the normal cannoli I see.  Maybe this is the way they do it in Boston, but I’ve never seen cannolis this big.  I was a little afraid that because of their size, the quality and flavor of the cannoli might suffer a bit.  After all, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.  But this wasn’t the case with the cannolis at Mike’s Pastry at all.  One bite into the cannoli and you can tell right away that these are fresh made.  There was a great crunch to the cannoli shell.  It wasn’t limp or sodden from the cannoli filling.  It was flaky and crunchy like it just came out of the fryer.  And each cannoli was so big, it was like a meal in and of itself!


The first of my two cannolis was the chocolate mousse.  A traditional cannoli shell, the inside is filled to the brim with chocolate mousse instead of the traditional white ricotta filling.  The ends are covered in mini chocolate chips and the whole thing is drizzled with some chocolate sauce before being finished off with powered sugar.  One bite of my cannoli and I knew why people flock to Mike’s Pastry.  This has got to be the best cannoli I’ve ever had.  The fact that it was huge and therefore hand tons of filling didn’t deter from the dessert at all.  The chocolate mousse was slightly sweet, but not overwhelming, and it was light and airy.  The shell was delicious and the chocolate drizzle added a bit of flavor.  This is exactly what I think a cannoli should be.


One bite into my husband’s first cannoli and he smiled and said, “this is good!”  While he was originally enthusiastic about the idea of going to Mike’s Pastry, when we stepped inside and saw the line, he was really skeptical.  If it were him, we never would have waited because in his opinion, a dessert is a dessert. A bakery is a bakery.  What makes any particular bakery any more special than the next bakery?  However, he did admit after enjoying his strawberry cannoli that he could see why people would wait for it.  Mind you, not that he would wait for it, because he still says that if it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t have waited, but ultimately he gets the rewards of waiting.  He really enjoyed his strawberry cannoli, he thought that the strawberry filling tasted like a lightly sweetened strawberry.  Like my chocolate mousse, the filling was nice and light and wasn’t too thick or heavy and it had just the right amount of sweetness to it to pair with the crunchy and delicious shell.


For his second cannoli, he ordered the mint chip.  While I know my husband likes strawberry and mint chip as ice cream flavors, these are two flavors I didn’t expect him to order as far as cannoli flavors.  I thought he’d be more of the traditionalist and go for the ricotta filling, or perhaps since we were in Boston the yellow cream filling.  But, he said he wanted to mix it up and go with different flavors that he knew he wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere.  One bite into his mint chip and he loved that as well.  He said it was minty, but subtly so.  Not an overwhelming mint flavor.  Again, the filling was airy and light, which helps with a cannoli of this size.  If the filling is too heavy, you’d never be able to finish the whole cannoli.


Chocolate covered was the choice for my second cannoli.  Filled with the traditional ricotta cheese filling and covered in mini chocolate chips on either end, the chocolate covered actually features a traditional cannoli shell that’s been dipped in a chocolate coating.  The coating isn’t too sweet, and adds a sweetness to the dessert that perhaps you don’t get with the ricotta cheese filling.  The chocolate coating also helped to keep the cannoli shell itself crunchy and crispy.  It was such a delicious dessert.

When you go to Mike’s Pastry, make sure to go hungry.  Or bring the box of goodies with you back to your hotel room and enjoy it for dessert later.  You really need an appetite to wolf down one of these big boys.  Probably 4 times bigger than I thought the cannolis would be, but yet 4 times better than any cannoli I’ve ever had, it’s easy to see why Mike’s Pastry is an institution in Boston’s North End neighborhood.  There’s a reason the store is filled shoulder-to-shoulder with customers, because everything they make is just that good.  And even if the lines and crowds are off-putting, it is so worth the wait.  This is one of those pastry shops where I’m grateful I don’t live in the same city because I could see myself going here.. a lot!

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