For a South Philly resident, a cannoli is much more than a crunchy shell with a creamy filling; it is a memory for both young and old. They are remembrances of times past like Christmas Eve at Nonna’s house when she would stand in an unending line to get sweets for the night, and they are reflections of succumbing to Thanksgiving food comas while trying to catch the late game. Potito’s Bakery, 1614 W. Ritner St., the Readers’ Choice Award winner for best cannoli, clearly understands the relationship that South Philly has with the Sicilian sweet treat, as it has been a perennial winner in this category.
Owners Matt Benigno and Cristina Potito-Benigno took over the Girard Estate-based bakery in 2010 under unfortunate circumstances.
“My father-in-law passed away and my mother-in-law wanted to sell Potito’s. So Cristina and I stepped up and decided to buy it from her. It was very obviously special to my wife. She’s been in Potito’s since she was two and we wanted to keep the tradition,” Benigno said regarding his and his wife’s decision to purchase the family business.
Since the sale, Potito’s has continued reaching the standard of excellence that Carmen Potito set beginning in 1985. The location has received recognition for cakes and other pastries over time, but the true favorite of the 31-year old establishment has been its assortment of cannoli.
“It’s very humbling. It’s something that we hold very special from the Review because we know it’s coming from our customers,” the Widener University graduate said concerning his establishment’s second straight year with a Readers’ Choice victory.
The collection of cannoli ranges from the original ricotta and chocolate chip convection to new takes on the classic like an Oreo filling with a chocolate covered shell or red velvet filling.
No matter how many new takes a bakery tries to make on a classic, sometimes the first is still the best.
“Our ricotta is still the bestseller by far,” Benigno said of South Philly’s undying loyalty to the original.
Termini Bros. stayed consistent, finishing in second place for cannoli, while Isgro’s filled the third slot. — J.F.