Nestled in the heart of Boston’s North End, on an old fashioned inner road reminiscent of Europe, lies a true dessert gem and historical landmark: Mike’s Pastry.

Ever since its storefront on 300 Hanover St. opened its doors in 1946 by the late Michael Mercogliano (the “Mike” behind Mike’s), the bakery has consistently been the go to institution for Italian sweet treats, not the least of which is their famous cannoli. Their menu boasts a staggering 18 incarnations of the traditional ricotta filled shell pastry, with flavors ranging from traditional classics like amaretto and espresso to unique creations like pistachio and peanut butter.

When the weekend rolls around, you can consistently find lines out the door and down the block, with locals and tourists clamoring for a taste of those heavenly time honored sweet treats.

Stephanie Kennedy, a Cambridge resident and frequent patron of Mike’s, says she and her sister came to settle a longstanding feud about which bakery had better cannoli: Mike’s or Modern.

“We stood in quite long lines for both and ordered the plain cannoli for proper comparison,” Kennedy explained. “We decided that Mike’s had a flakier crust, smoother filling and overall best value. Also their line was the fastest. Mike’s wins!”

4.4 stars on Google, 4.5 stars on Yelp, generously reviewed on Zagat – so what is all the hype about? Well the cannoli is usually the most popular seller, but Mike’s also boasts a mean lobster tail (crispy flaky lobster shaped shell with white and yellow cream) that apparently has a fascinating history dating all the way back to the 16th century, according to their website.

And history is exactly what makes this place special. Mercogliano was an immigrant, much like the majority of the eclectic residents that make up Boston’s North End neighborhood. He brought his Italian heritage and culinary education to the area and started a pastry revolution. Since its opening, many bakeries have opened up in the area: Modern Pastry (their closest rival), Bova’s, Maria’s – but none can compare to the original.

I have been to Mike’s many times in my four years of living here in Boston, and have come to a firm conclusion that my favorite cannoli is consistently the florentine: distinguished from the rest of the pack by its sweet and almond infused thicker shell and chocolate chip covered ends. But this time I wanted to branch out see if I could give something other than cannoli a try, so I sampled a lobster tail as well as a Boston Creme cake, chocolate chip cookie and a ricotta pie.

The verdict? Mike’s isn’t just for cannoli. Every item I sampled was without equal, masterfully made with the kind of precision and care that can only come from 70 years of business. Maybe the Boston Creme wasn’t quite up my alley (because I’m not really the biggest chocolate fan) but I could still appreciate how well crafted it was. The bottom line is that whether you’re in Boston for an hour or have lived here your whole life, if you haven’t managed to make it out to Mike’s then you’re doing your tastebuds a disservice.

Mike’s Pastry

300 Hanover St. Boston, MA 02113

Open Monday to Friday, 8 am to 10 pm (except Fridays and Saturdays when open until 11:30 pm)

Cash only; wheelchair accessible

Closest MBTA station: Haymarket (orange and green lines) 

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