Cherry-topped cannoli from Borracchini's.
Somehow I have lived my whole life--the last few years with a career mainly devoted to my love of food--without eating


A Quest for Cannoli Leads to Borracchini's

Cherry-topped cannoli from Borracchini's.
Somehow I have lived my whole life--the last few years with a career mainly devoted to my love of food--without eating a cannoli. I blame my parents.

So it came to be that I found myself on Rainier Avenue at Borracchini's Bakery on a Monday mid-morning, in search of the elusive Seattle cannoli. What's more surprising when I show up is that I remember this as one of the first places I visited after moving to Seattle--that time because it was a warm September day and I got distracted driving past the sign they used to have touting something like 30 different flavors of soft-serve ice cream, and this time seeking Italian baked goods. I clearly have a sugar issue.

The Mediterranean (though really mostly Italian) market at 2307 Rainier Ave. S. has been open nearly 90 years, a testament to the sort of variety in stock, affordable pricing, and friendly customer service the place offers. I'm overwhelmed almost immediately just by the baked goods set on a table by the door: cherry strudel, pretzel-looking torchetti, and amaretti cookies sit waiting as sugary impulse purchases near the register. I move past the display and head for the freezer section, where Borracchini's signature marinara and alfredo sauces can be found in tubs alongside sausages, huge meatballs, gelato, whole lasagnas, balls of pizza dough, and a selection of filled pastas from ravioli to manicotti. The market has also produced bottled versions of Remo Borracchini's tomato-based sauces--I pick up a spicy arrabbiata and one that advertises smoky bacon flavor.

To complement these, there's an entire aisle of dried pastas in all shapes and sizes, and another aisle of canned and pickled antipasti ingredients. There are a couple of options for top-notch canned tomatoes (mostly San Marzanos) for making your own sauce, an impressive assortment of olive oils, and a few shelves of wine. And basically, that's it for typical groceries; you'll find no fresh produce here.

But beyond the aisles of Italian ingredients lies a deli at the back where you can buy Parmesan and tubs of mascarpone, whole salamis and sliced prosciutto, ready-to-eat salads, pastas and meatballs in red sauce. Follow the counter around and there's a whole pile of mortadella or pastrami paninis (though since these aren't buttered and grilled yet, they're simply sandwiches on oblong slices of bread) marked just 99 cents. Ever a discount shopper, I pick up a couple of sandwiches and then my eye catches on the pastry case, which runs the whole length of the store's side.

Clearly, this is where Borracchini's excels. They make absolutely everything here, a laundry list of savory and sweet baked goods that runs the gamut from jalapeno-studded focaccia to multi-tiered wedding cakes. The colors alone are so plentiful it's hard to take your eyes away--bright blue frosted cupcakes, glistening hot cross buns, orange slices of carrot cake peeking from under white frosting, unnaturally hued fruit cover danish, and fill more strudel, and bright maraschino cherries dot the end of the cannoli I've been waiting for.

Note: To avoid embarrassment, don't mistakenly order cannelloni when you really mean cannoli. Both tube shapes, yes, but very different and will elicit blank stares from pastry girl.

I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting, but the cannoli seem like the shell should be crunchy and flaky against the creaminess of the ricotta filling dotted with chocolate chips and candied fruit. Perhaps they're made first thing in the morning and these are a few hours old by now--nonetheless, the flavor is simple and delicately sweet, not gourmet in any way, but comforting the way a basic maple bar at your neighborhood doughnut shop frequently beats any of the fancy flavors at Frost.

Come for the cannoli, but make sure you try the other sweet and savory offerings as well. It won't cost you much, as my whole lot--three cannoli, two sandwiches, a slice of pizza, two large jars of sauce, and a loaf of pepperoni and cheddar focaccia--totals just $25.

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