Mangiamo like Italian royalty

Commercial Drive’s  espresso bars and trattorias may be giving way to sushi joints and kebab shops, but there’s still one day of the year when it returns to its Italian roots. On Sunday, June 12, more than 300,000 people are expected to descend on the portion of the Drive between Venables Street and E. 12th Avenue for Italian Day. This year’s theme of mangiamo! is an unambiguous acknowledgement of one of the celebration’s biggest draws: the food. Be sure to save room for dessert, though, because Cannoli King will be there serving real-deal Sicilian cannoli from the window of their food truck. A good cannoli is an exercise in contrast, a balance between a flash-fried crisp tube of pastry and the silky rich ricotta filling within it. In Italy, cannoli is made with goat’s milk ricotta, which is difficult to find in Canada. So Sam Pero—the Cannoli King—uses the highest-quality cow’s milk ricotta he can get. He adds toasted almonds and chocolate chips, but eschews the candied orange-peel garnish that some other places add. “We tend to leave ours very plain,” Pero says. “Otherwise, the garnishes hide the cannoli and can mask ones that aren’t fresh.” And for Pero, freshness is key. “The only way to enjoy a cannoli is freshly filled,” he says. “You don’t want it to go soggy.” Peek behind the table of pastries at his bakery and you’re likely to see Pero and his team, piping bags in hand, filling cannoli as fast as people can snap them up. Pero’s had plenty of practice. He started Cannoli King in 2011 as an offshoot of Italia Bakery, which has been the family business since 1985. He now runs the bakery and two food trucks, both of which will be at Italian Day—one at Commercial Drive and Kitchener Street, the other somewhere south of East First Avenue. If you’re in Hastings–Sunrise, you can always stop by Italia Bakery to get your cannoli fix. But you can now also order cannoli online, and expect next-day delivery. With a minimum order of just six pastries ($22), that’s a dangerous temptation. Cannoli King @ Italia Bakery 2828 East Hastings St., 604-283-1115