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Aug 15

The History of Tiramisu

Posted by: SALLC  
Tagged in: Recipes

Today (February 2010) I went to the town of Treviso, 20 minutes north of Venice, to discover the real story of how and where Tiramisu was invented. I had read a story on the internet that it was a creation of Alle Beccherie, a restaurant in Treviso. I had also read, however, that it was invented by a chef now in Baltimore (Carminantonio Iannaccone), at his restaurant Piedigrotta in Treviso. Other stories had also pointed to Treviso, but to different restaurants. As my mother was raised in Treviso, I decided to ask friends, elderly relatives, and locals what they know about the true origins of my favorite northern Italian dessert.

My first stop was a small cafe where a girl no more than 20 years old was working. “I'm not sure where exactly, but I know it was invented in Treviso.”, she said. This was no help at all. At the next cafe, where the Tiramisu seemed more traditional, with the free-flowing zabaglione covering the Savoiardi cookies, a man in his 30s offered that Tiramisu was invented “...right down the street, where there was a bordello. Downstairs, a man asked the madam for something that would pick him up. The madam made a concoction of mascarpone, sugar, eggs, espresso, and amaretti biscotti. This picked the man up, and made him a satisfied customer of the bordello (“Tiramisu” means “Pick Me Up” in Italian). “Later”, the man in the cafe continued, “the amaretti were replaced with the more readily available savoiardi biscotti we see today.”

This was an interesting story, but when I went to my 70 year old aunt (a lifelong resident of Treviso) to confirm the story, she said, “Cipriani's, that's for sure.” Wow. Everyone had their own story. As it turned out, two days prior, I had an hour long conversation with Chef Piccolotto, executive chef of Cipriani's. During the interview about both the chef and Cipriani's, not once did he mention Tiramisu. And so I continued to the next cafe. The waiter here could only confirm that it was invented in Treviso. A young girl in her twenties said, “Wasn't it invented in a bordello?”

At a visit to the final cafe, I asked an old man (who admitted to being in his 90s) where Tiramisu was invented. “In Treviso, in a bordello”, he chuckled.

My original plan was to capture these locals on video telling their stories of Tiramisu. But no one, that is no one directly connected to a supposed inventor of Tiramisu) wanted to be filmed talking about it. Exhausted, I headed back towards the train station, intent on taking the next train back to Venice. Hungry for something other than Tiramisu, I stopped at a local trattoria to dine on octopus, calamari, anchovies, sardines, and to discuss Prosecco with the owner, as he is very active in a local Prosecco club. Before leaving, I asked him, “Tell me, where was Tiramisu born?”

“Here”, he said.
“Here in Treviso?”
“Yes, right here.”
“But where in Treviso?"
“In a house of pleasure. A client wanted something to pick him up, like Viagra, but years ago”, he laughed.

My appetite for fish, Prosecco, and stories of Tiramisu satisfied, I took the next train home to Venice, where I was certain that this evening my dessert would be anything but Tiramisu.

For a great recipe for "Original" tiramisu including a step-by-step video, click here.

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