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Who invented tiramisu? The true story in a book, plus 23 original recipes for gluttons

by Federico De Cesare Viola

It’s a real icon of happiness. It’s the most renowned Italian word in China and it exists in 23 languages. It’s a symbol of Italian cuisine around the world as much as pizza, and it’s genius in its simplicity: ladyfingers, coffee, eggs and mascarpone cheese. In recent days, at the Turin Book Fair, tiramisu has been once again at the center of a discussion about its origins. According to the former Minister of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies Luca Zaia – who wants to give the credit to the Veneto region, where he comes from – tiramisu would be born in Treviso.

But the truth is down in black and white: the famous Italian dessert was born in Friuli in the ’50s, in the area between the towns of Pieris di San Canzian d’Isonzo and Tolmezzo, as revealed by the new book by Clara and Gigi Padovani “Tiramisu – History, curiosities and interpretations of the most loved Italian dessert,” published by Giunti Editore.

The two writers have examined menus, receipts and old cookbooks and, through an accurate research based on many sources and irrefutable evidence, they shed light on this mystery. And in the end everybody’s happy thanks to the first codification of the four original recipes: the one by Mario Cosolo (Al Vetturino, Pieris, exclusively revealed after almost 70 years); that by Norma Pielli (Albergo Roma, Tolmezzo); by Speranza Bon (Al Camin, Treviso); by Loli Linguanotto and Alba Campeol (Alle Becchierie, Treviso).

Tiramisu continues its journey passing through Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Treviso, Venice, Lodi and Rome, and also Baltimore (Maryland), where the pastry chef from Avellino Carminantonio Iannacone works (the inventor of a recipe born in 1969 to which the Washington Post devoted two pages in 2007). Tiramisu, especially starting from the ’80s, has become a global phenomenon, so much so that it’s mentioned in many songs and movies, like for example Sleepless in Seattle by Nora Ephron, that made the dessert famous across the US.

In the second part of the book, Clara Padovani included 17 original tiramisu recipes (among which vegan, Christmas tree-shaped made with Pandoro, the “Torinomisù” with Vermut Antica Formula Carpano and Barolo Chinato and the exotic “Postcard from Australia” with mango and Macadamia nuts). Above all, the book includes no less than 23 recipes signed by famous Italian and international chefs.

Albert Adrià, a creative pastry chef (and Ferran’s brother) of the Catalan group elBarri, has invented the tiramisu “cortado” (which is the Spanish macchiato). Enrico Crippa made a “sandwich” tiramisu to enjoy while having a walk. Lidia Bastianich, the lady of Italian cuisine in the US, made her version of the tiramisu by adding some limoncello, while Gualtiero Marchesi created a recipe with panettone and Davide Oldani gave life to the “total white” version with white coffee mousse. Niko Romito wanted to pay tribute to the specialty of the family pastry shop on Rivisondoli and invented the “bombamisù,” an example of street food for real gluttons: it’s a baked bomba (baked or fried pastry usually filled with chocolate or cream, Ed’s note) sprinkled with bitter cocoa powder and stuffed with mascarpone cheese cream.