Tiramisu translates into English literally as “pick me up” due to its being highly comprised of espresso. This, mixed with its contrasting creamy texture and rich flavor all contributed to the dishes rapid popularity by offering its tasters a confectionary alternative to coffee or espresso. Many who even dislike coffee enjoy Tiramisu, making it truly more than the sum of its parts: mascarpone, sugar, eggs, espresso, savoiardi biscuits (lady fingers), and cocoa powder. The fluffy sweet cheese/egg mixture, the softness of the biscuits soaked in delicious espresso, and the delicate aftertaste of the cocoa powder topping create an unforgettable experience for the palate.
There is some degree of debate as to exactly how, when, by who or in which part of Italy it was created, however some stories carry more weight than others. Although Tiramisu is generally considered to be one of the historic staples of Italian desserts, you may be surprised to learn that it instead originated quite recently, in the mid to late 1960’s.
For us, in the United States, the only thing you need to know about this delicacy is that it is served at the most amazing “Caffé” in Dorchester, Massachusetts called “Zia Gianna”. Come and check it out the famous “Classic Tiramisu” with coffee – you won’t be disappointed. Don’t forget to try some new delicate variations of the Tiramisu also freshly prepared from scratch at “Zia Gianna” like the “Strawberry Tiramisu”, and also the “Banana and Nutella” Tiramisu.
A BIT OF HISTORY
As far as the Italian place of origin, one is it comes from the Veneto region in the mid 1960’s by the skill of Roberto Linguanotto, the owner of "Alle Beccherie", a highly regarded restaurant in Treviso, Italy.
Another version is that it was chef Speranza Garatti, who was the mentor of Celeste Tonon who owns the Ristorante da Celeste, also in Treviso, that invented the recipe. Tonon claims that Garatti was the first to offer the dish, which he originally served in a goblet, later to be adapted into pastry by his friend and fellow restaurant owner, Ado Campeol. According to the story, Campeol then attached the name “Tiramisu”.
A more ancient tradition finds its origin in the XVII century in the town of Siena (Tuscany) where probably the “ancestor” of the Tiramisu was first created under the name of “Coppa del Duca” in honor of the visit from the Grand Duke Cosimo de' Medici III.
Regardless of where it truly originated from, the word Tiramisu would be spoken and served more and more until it shot to the height of its popularity in the 1980's. It was then that it could commonly be found in recipe books and finally, the word was added the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
If you were to travel to Italy, and investigate the people you find at the local street markets, bakeries, and cafés, you'd find that the truth of the matter is that the locals don't really care who invented the desert. In a region so impassioned by food and the thought and care involved in culinary arts, what is important to them is how delicious this iconic Italian delicacy is, and where they can go to get their next piece. Except, perhaps, in Treviso, where the debate may go on forever!
For sure by the mid 1980’s, Tiramisu had already taken America by storm and could be found at almost any Italian restaurant, but a short three or four years earlier, the case was much different and very few Americans, unless they had the means to have actually visited Italy, were neophytes when it came to this delicious treat.