In Naples, the postale (mail ship) arrives from Palermo every morning and leaves in the evening for the return journey across the Tyrrhenian Sea. Forget about the sensational yet tired connection made between the two cities in the popular imagination – that of the Mafia in Palermo and Camorra in Naples. For us, the postale represents a far more interesting link: The “mozzarella and cannoli connection.”
On the Naples-Palermo route, dozens of people can be seen transporting plastic containers holding mozzarella from the Campania region into Sicily. On the opposite route, cannoli and Sicilian cassata (cake) boxes abound. This trafficking of edibles reflects a gastronomic relationship that has long existed between the two cities. In particular, Neapolitan pastry is deeply connected with the Sicilian variety – after all, Naples and Palermo were two great capitals of the same kingdom.
In Sicily, cannoli are a true religion, and Sicilians have their own rituals relating to raw materials, frying and filling techniques, precise handwork and perhaps even spells and superstitions. Everyone on the island has their favorite cannolo, made their trusted pastry chef
of trust, while in the rest of Italy cannoli are considered the perfection of Sicilian pastry. They are particularly loved in Naples, where dessert shops all over town will have “Sicilian Cannoli” written on their windows. But there is only one place selling real Sicilian cannoli: Dolcezze Siciliane di Busiello. That’s because this little pastry shop is located right at the harbor, collecting the cannoli fresh off the postale from Sicily, straight from the source!
About 30 years ago, Dolcezze Siciliane’s founder, Crescenzo Busiello (now 83), had a brilliant idea: buy fresh cannoli in the evening in Palermo, put them on the postale and pick them up in Naples at dawn the next day. “My father was a worker at the port of Naples,” Pierluigi, Crescenzo’s son, tells us. “In the early 90s, he would have Sicilian specialties brought in from Palermo. Fresh cassata and cannoli arrived in a few hours at the port of Naples, thanks to a friend of his who boarded the postale and arrived every morning at dawn.”
When friends of Crescenzo’s heard of his sweet setup, they started asking him to bring treats for them, Pierluigi says. “Crescenzo began realizing he could import these Sicilian sweets reliably and regularly. In 1996, he created this small store within the port. Nothing is produced on site; everything arrives fresh every morning.”
About 30 years ago, Dolcezze Siciliane’s founder, Crescenzo Busiello (now 83), had a brilliant idea: buy fresh cannoli in the evening in Palermo, put them on the postale and pick them up in Naples at dawn the next day.
Starting at 6:30 am, Pierluigi (48), along with his sisters Anna (54) and Pina (60), dispenses sweets to the workers who arrive at the docks for their first shift. “Every morning at dawn, we collect the refrigerator package from the ship and unload: cannoli; cannolini [tiny cannoli]; Sicilian cassata; baked cassata; almond sweets; ricotta and pear slices; buccellato cake with almonds, figs and raisins; almond cake and other specialties,” Anna tells us.
“The cannoli is coated inside with chocolate – this is to prevent the ricotta filling from coming into direct contact with the cannolo pastry, which would make it spongey,” she explains. She acknowledges that a “real Sicilian” might find heretical the idea of a cannolo that had been pre-made to travel overnight. They would say a cannolo must be stuffed on the spot, seconds before eating. But, of course, this would be impossible if the cannoli at Dolcezze Siciliane di Busiello were to be truly “Made in Sicily.” Anna says this is the best possible compromise to enjoy an artisanal cannolo made entirely on Sicilian soil in Naples.
A few years back, the pastry shop expanded their Sicilian offerings – and broke their on-site production rule – to include arancini, which are shipped uncooked from Sicily and then fried on the premises. “They are hugely successful,” Pierluigi says.
The pastry shop managed to remain open even during the Covid-19 lockdowns, setting up seating outside. They now also take phone orders and offer home delivery. “Our clientele is mainly made up of passionate Neapolitans. Over the years, we have been imitated by many retailers, but we have remained the most well-known, even though we never advertise. We only believe in word of mouth, as our father did when he started the business,” Pina tells us. “The line outside of the shop at Christmas and Easter is always long,” she says. Of course, considering the nature of the business, the only thing that has impacted their sales over the years has been bad weather. Says Pina: “If the sea is rough and the ship doesn’t leave Sicily, then no cannoli!”
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