Where: 1205 S. 9th St.
Hours: 10 a.m.- midnight,
Sunday-Thursday. 10 a.m.-2 a.m.,
The lowdown: A cafe on the edge of the Italian Market that offers cannoli shells imported from Sicily, homemade chocolates and coffee roasted on-site. Go ahead, just hand over your wallet now.
Backstory: Bill Matoney tried to run a yogurt shop out of a storefront that's mere steps away from Geno's Steaks. When the business didn't take off, he paired with his friend Rene Kobeitri - who owns nearby Rim Cafe - to try something different. "We're in the Italian Market, so we thought cannolis would be a hit," Matoney said. "But we're surprised by how fast everyone accepted us in the marketplace." Since opening in September, business has been steady - and flat-out crazy on weekends, when curious tourists wander in after they've plowed through a cheesesteak.
The shells: The cafe's shells are crafted at a bakery in Palermo and shipped here once a month. Kobeitri said their taste and texture is different from what you find at bakeries in the city. Some are dipped in chocolate or peanut butter; others are the size of a small newborn baby. "This is how they make them in Italy," he said. "You can bring them to parties. Soon we'll make them in the shape of the Leaning Tower of Pisa."
The filling: A combination of ricotta cheese, mascarpone and cream, topped off with homemade salty caramel. "That's the big key to our cannoli," Kobeitri said. "When you compare our cream to other cannoli, ours is not too sweet. The caramel makes the difference."
The chocolate: Kobeitri is a chocolatier, so the shop naturally boasts a wide counter case filled with homemade flavors, from dark to white to peanut butter to Parmesan. The kicker: baristas use the chocolate to make mind-blowing hot chocolate.
The beans: "America is the biggest coffee consumer in all the world," Kobeitri said. "They know quality coffee. You can't lie to them." Cafe Crema roasts beans from Ethiopia in-house.
Coming soon: Imported gelato from Sicily.
Prices: Plain cannoli, $5; specialty flavor, $6; coffee $2 to $3; hot chocolate $6; homemade chocolates, $10/half-pound.
Social: Facebook: Cafe Crema
Daily News staff writers David Gambacorta, Dana DiFilippo and Helen Ubiñas ate cannoli for lunch this week. They regret nothing. Have a favorite coffee shop? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.