Tiramisù, which means “lift me up,” is a popular Italian dessert made of lady fingers dipped in coffee and layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar, mascarpone cheese, and flavored with cocoa. Unlike other traditional Italian dishes (whose recipes must be strictly followed), there seem to be many acceptable variations of this dessert…that is, unless you live in Treviso or Udine.
The food fight this time is about the origins of tiramisù. It seems that every region in Italy would like to have invented this delicacy. Most of the debates are among the regions of Tuscany, Piedmont, the Veneto, and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, particularly the last two.
The oldest legend of the birth of tiramisù dates back to the 17th century in Siena where pastry makers, in anticipation of a visit from the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo de Medici, decided to make a dessert to celebrate him. At the time, it was called “zuppa del duca” (literally, soup of the duke); supposedly he brought the recipe to Florence and it became known throughout Italy.
Another version maintains that a Turin pastry chef invented tiramisù in honor of Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, to support him in the difficult task of unifying Italy.
Most accounts of the origin date its invention to the 1960s in the region of Veneto at the restaurant Le Beccherie in Treviso. Supposedly, the dish was created by Roberto Linguanotto, chef and restaurant owner, along with his apprentice whose maiden name was Tiramisù. However, Carminantonio Iannaccone claims that the tiramisù at Le Beccherie was made by him in his bakery. Regardless, recipes called “tiramisù” are unknown in cookbooks before the 1960s.
The governor of Treviso is so obsessed with “owning” tiramisù that he decided long ago to seek the recognition of Specialità territoriale garantita (territorial specialty guaranteed), a European Union mark that so far has been awarded to only two foods in Italy—Neapolitan pizza and mozzarella. And now a new book has been published that calls into question the origin. The authors of “Tiramisù: History, Curiosity, Interpretations of the beloved dessert” present evidence that Norma Pielli Del Fabbro, former owner of the hotel, Roma in Tomezzo, in Udine invented it. Norma claimed “We created it in the ‘50s.” Norma died in 2015 but her son showed the authors a 1959 receipt listing “2 tiramisù and 1 strudel” and also 2 printed menus from 1963 and 1965 related to dinners of the Academy of Italian Cuisine.
The Treviso governor is not to be deterred. His reply: “There is a deed that certifies that the dessert is ours.” The diplomatic authors of the book reply, satisfying everyone, “There are four original recipes for tiramisù—2 from the Veneto and 2 from Friuli.”