We arrived in Rome with an empty stomach and a mission: to find the best cannoli in town. And when it comes to desserts, believe me, we take our missions very seriously!
Since this trip was only a weekend getaway, we had a total of three days to reach our goal. Little did we know, it would hardly take us the first hour in the city to hit the jackpot! Even after we found this store, we tried many other cannolis around town, but we would always end up going back there every day for our daily treat! So, welcome to HEDERA!
Hedera is a family store located at one of the most charming parts of Rome, Borgo Pio, steps away from San Pietro square. Being in the Pope´s backyard, a stop at Hedera for breakfast right before a visit to the Vatican is a great idea. Though they call themselves a gelateria, a lot more than delicious, creamy, pungent ice cream is served.
During the time we visited the store (which was basically every day, twice a day, for 3 days!), we tried different sweets, together with espressos, cappuccinos and hot chocolates. YUM! Aside from cakes, they offer many traditional delights like the famous gelato (oh the pistachio…), crispy almond cantuccinis, the decadent tartufo (kind of an Italian truffle), the creamy tiramisu and, of course, the cannolis, the star of the house.
So, if you have no idea what I´m talking about, here´s a crash course for you: the cannoli is a Sicilian pasty consisting of a crunchy dough stuffed with sheep´s milk ricotta. It can be decorated with candied orange peel, candied cherry, chocolate drops, powdered sugar or pistachio pieces. The ones at Hedera are served with a cherry, pistachio and powdered sugar.
Now, you should be asking what makes this cannoli soooo different from others. After trying many in Rome and in different cities in Italy, and not finding anything like it, we also tried to break down the reasons. First thing, the cannolis at Hedera are served e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y fresh. The kitchen is located right behind the counter, being separated by a glass. You can see new batches being made quite often. Actually, the nice man who was there on the first day explained to us that they only make small quantities at different times of the day. This way the cannolis come to the front looking and tasting juicy and fresh. In some other places, we went through the problem of ordering a cannoli that looked okay-ish, but when we took a bite, it was clear the poor thing had been sitting there for a while – no crunchiness at all.
Another difference is that Hedera covers the inside of the crispy dough in a dark chocolate layer, which gives a really nice taste contrast with the ricotta. It sounds like such a small component, but it does make a difference. Thirdly, you can taste the freshness of their ricotta, which is really strictly made with sheep milk. It´s light and creamy, not making you feel like you gotta literally roll back to your hotel room. A heavy ricotta cream makes you feel so stuffed that it´s not enjoyable. We unfortunately had one of these in Milan and we each ended up leaving half of it behind. The worst part was that we still left the store feeling very full – not pleasant at all. At Hedera we all felt like we could eat more than one cannoli, even though they were pretty big!
In the end, Hedera proves that the quality of the ingredients you use in your food does come through. Going through their website, they state that they still work the traditional way, strictly with raw materials, no dyes, no chemical thickeners or anything that is sold semi-finished. Therefore, don´t expect to go into this store and find a big range of sweets or ice creams. The latter, for example, are only available in 6 flavors, which are either with ingredients that are yearlong produced, like chocolate, or seasonal fruits. In the website, they declare: “our goal is to make the best ice cream possible. This is why we will never offer you the strawberry flavor in February or the melon flavor in March”.
Since everything is made to be served fresh in this store, once they run out of an ice cream flavor, you can only expect to get it on the next day. Also, the ice cream is not on display like you are used to see everywhere else. They stay at the counter, but inside closed refrigerated containers. You can still ask to take a look and taste them, of course! Getting to know this shop made us think about the commitment that some places still have with serving food at its healthiest, even if we are talking about sweets. It´s unfortunately so easy to oversee this sometimes, isn´t it?
It is also worth to mention (it´s the digital era, afterall…) that Hedera will give you pretty instagrammable moments with your cannoli. The gelateria has a very charming Victorian flair that will make it easy to delay your tour around Rome for some minutes more…or, take your cannoli to go and delve into this historic city in the best company possible!