We're in Denver, so let's get one thing straight: Cannoli can be the familiar crunchy Italian dessert made with sweet ricotta piped into deep-fried tubes, or they can be bready rolls stuffed with meat. Sometimes you'll see them sold in old-school Italian joints as "canoli," but Grammy's Italian Goodies, at 4601 Harlan Street in Wheat Ridge, keeps the extra "n" in its hand-sized cannoli.
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Grammy's started out as little more than a booth selling homemade cookies at Lakewood's annual Festival Italiano, but expanded to a counter-service restaurant and bakery three years ago. Along with pizzas, pasta and a vast selection of baked goods (especially around holidays like Christmas and Easter), the tiny restaurant makes two kinds of savory cannoli. The first is called Jeff's Original and is made with fresh bread dough wrapped around Polidori sausage. The second is known as the Meatball Madness, which tucks two juicy meatballs inside the same housemade dough. Both versions also include mozzarella cheese and strips of green chile inside the roll, giving distinct Denver flair to the Italian-American treats.
Polidori has been churning out sausage in Denver for more than ninety years, so most of us know what to expect: Fennel, garlic and other seasonings combine for a nostalgic taste of a home-cooked Sunday supper, especially when the cannoli is dipped in Grammy's meaty marinara. The meatball cannoli packs even more of a garlic wallop, and the ground-beef mixture is uncannily soft, proof of the time taken to properly cook the meatballs before they're rolled and baked into the cannoli.
Think of these cannoli as portable sausage or meatball sandwiches that convey the warm aroma of fresh-baked bread with each bite. If you can't get enough of that golden-baked wrapper, Grammy's also bakes garlic knots and serves them slathered in butter. If you've never been to the restaurant, you'll probably be spotted as a first-timer — which might just land you a free order.