Steve Del Gardo, aka the Cannoli Guy, is an engaging conversationalist. He explains that he is a male breast cancer survivor who, after, a long stint in the world of “do good” is aspiring to live what always has been his dream, the delivery of fine Sicilian food to American homes.
“I ran a cancer foundation that was called Protect the Pecs. I went around the country and spoke at medical conferences,” he says. “[But] my dad said go after your dream, life is too short. Don’t work for anyone else. Be your own boss. Get that restaurant that you want.”
“I was looking at different options,” he continues. “I sat down and thought hard, opened up my grandfather’s cookbook and I landed on the cannoli page. It was a sign.”
Del Gardo’s opened in the heart of Covington in October of 2018 and has quickly become a destination place for desserts. He offers imported Italian wines, espresso, and cappuccino, and is quick to explain that this is not a bakery — it’s a cannoli bar with fine coffee and wine.
“It took off right away. I was taking orders for the holiday season,” he says. “I have a lot of regular customers who come in every week. But I also see new faces every single week.”
He’s woven his charitable side in with the business by offering discounts to veterans and police officers and, on Saturdays, he drops leftovers off at Hotel Covington.
Italian cooking is in his genes. Del Gardo’s great grandparents came from Palermo. “The mafia brought over my great grandparents and they lived in New York,” he says.
He was born in Long Island and lived part of his childhood there until the family moved to Ohio when his dad became the CIO of Gibson Greetings in Cincinnati, and they’ve been here ever since.
“I grew up making bread with family,” he says. “Cooking is one of the best things in my life.”
His comfort in the kitchen led to experimenting with a variety of cannoli flavors, which have received great feedback from locals.
“Since I opened all of the New Yorkers say this is the best cannoli outside of New York City,” Del Gardo says. And it probably helps that Covington reminds him of the city as well.
“I love the ambiance of this place,” he says. “It’s cozy.”
For those unfamiliar, cannoli, meaning “little tube,” is a Sicilian dessert often filled with ricotta cream. Del Gardo’s holiday flavors include bourbon, eggnog, twisted candy cane, gingerbread, the Grinch (apple, sweet and sour), pumpkin, and cranberry vodka.
“My goal is to brand my own cannoli cream to be available in stores nationwide,” he says. “This includes Del Gardo’s cannoli cream in every refrigerator.”
Del Gardo advises customers to start placing Christmas orders by December 15th, and he’ll be open for pickup through December 24th.