International Day of Italian Cuisines

The contentious origin of a piece of heaven

Plenty of legends have been created around the origins of Tiramisù. One of them connects Tiramisù to the “zuppa del Duca” made in honour of Cosimo III dei Medici (1642 – 1723), without Mascarpone cheese. From Tuscany the fame of the zuppa spread out across all of Italy, and arriving in Venice, it was given the name tirame su (pick me up). Definitively, there are no sources that prove this.

Other claims have more credibility, particularly those arguing that the Tiramisù was first created in Veneto, in the city of Treviso, but in relatively recent times, perhaps in the early Seventies of the last century.

Two claims point in that direction: In 2007, an Italian Pastry chef and baker, Carminantonio Iannaccone, who now runs the Piedigrotta Bakery in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, in an interview with The Washington Post, claimed that he was the inventor of the sweet.

Carminantonio Iannaccone and his wife Bruna
make news in The Washington Post

“Iannaccone's story is simple: he trained as a pastry chef in the southern city of Avellino, and then migrated to Milan to find work at the age of 12. In 1969 he married his wife, Bruna, and opened a restaurant also called Piedigrotta in Treviso, where he cooked up a dessert based on the "everyday flavours of the region": strong coffee, creamy mascarpone, eggs, Marsala and ladyfinger cookies. He says it took him two years to perfect the recipe, which was originally served as an elegant, freestanding cake”

On the other hand, also convinced that Tiramisù was born in Treviso was Giuseppe Maffioli (1925-1985), but not in the Iannaccone Restaurant. Maffioli, an actor, a writer and the founding editor of Vin Veneto, a publication on the wines of the region of Veneto, wrote in an article on coffee-based desserts published in 1981 that; “Recently, just a little more than a decade ago, in the city of Treviso emerged a new dessert, the Tiramesù. It was proposed for the first time at the restaurant Le Beccherie by a pastry chef named Loly Linguanotto, who had by chance recently held a few jobs in Germany.”

The first Tiramisù of
Le Beccherie Restaurant Treviso

He added: “The dessert and its name, ‘Tiramesù,’ meant to describe an extraordinarily nutritious and invigorating food, immediately gained popularity. Tiramesù was prepared with absolute faithfulness or a few variations not only in the restaurants of Treviso, but in the entire Veneto region and in all of Italy. The Tiramesù is, after all, a coffee-flavoured “zuppa inglese” like the one made in my own house on the day of St. Joseph for my grandfather’s birthday. This old preparation, though, was not yet Tiramesù, and it must be said that the name has its own prestigious importance.”

Roberto Linguanotto, former
pastry chef of Le Beccherie

In an interview with Pietro Mascioni, in 2006, Alba Campeol, the former owner of Le Beccherie, claimed that the origin of tiramisù was an invention of her mother-in-law, after the birth of her, son (Alba’s) when she was very weak. “My mother-in-law,” she said to Mascioni “to help me recuperate some energy, gave me a zabaglione… with a bit of mascarpone cheese... and also added a bit of coffee to it.” She told Loly Linguanotto and asked him to prepare a dessert for the restaurant; “And he had the idea of making layers of Savoiardi cookies dipped in coffee. Then we added the cocoa topping. It was then that I remembered my mother-in-law’s words, and we called it ‘Tiramesù.’ It’s important to notice that in Le Becchierie tiramisù there was no Marsala Wine, while there was in Iannaccone’s. Aldo Campeoli, Alba’s husband, declared to the Washington Post, that he had never heard of Iannaccone.

Aldo and Alba Campeol, former owners of
Le Beccherie Restaurant, Treviso

The dispute is still open. What is certain, however, is that, until well into the 1970s Tiramesu or Tiramisù, was not among the typical sweets of Italy. British cookbook author Elizabeth David makes no mention of the dessert in her 1954 Italian Food, nor does Marcella Hazan in The Classic Italian Cookbook (1973). And in respect to Veneto, Fernando and Tina Raris, in La Marca gastronomica published a list of typical Veneto desserts, compiled in 1964 by Giuseppe Mazzotti, on occasion of the Sixth Festival of Treviso’s Gastronomy, in which there is also no mention of Tiramisù.