Tiramisu: A tasty treat with an energy kick

Tiramisu
Tiramisu

Tiramisu: A tasty treat with an energy kick

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Okinawa

When in my travels I make new friends, I’m quick to ask them all about their home towns and what there is to see and do there. One of my latest acquaintances happened to hail from Treviso. When I grilled him about his city’s claim to fame, he revealed to me it’s the birthplace of tiramisù. Reason enough to plan a trip there!

I was curious as to how this scrumptious, creamy, coffee-flavored dessert connects to this provincial capital of the Veneto region in northern Italy. As it happens, you don’t have to step too far back in history to trace tiramisù’s tasty roots.

According to some sources, the dessert was the stroke of genius of a pastry chef by the name of one Roberto “Loly” Linguanotto, who worked at a restaurant by the name of Le Beccherie in Treviso. Tiramisù is said to have first been plated up there in the late 1960s or early 1970s. This energizing dessert with a caffeine kick quickly took off, not only at his place of work but in other restaurants throughout Treviso. And it wasn’t long before it was being ordered in restaurants throughout the Veneto and all Italy. Today, it’s known and loved around the globe.

Those with a taste for not only sweets but history too might be interested in the origins of a similar snack. According to other sources, a forerunner of the dessert can be traced as far back as 1800, when the madam of one of Treviso’s houses of pleasure began serving a similar dessert to clients of the establishment. The purpose of this was to rejuvenate them before they were to return to their wives later that same evening.

Many readers are no doubt familiar with the origins of the name of this creamy delight. Literally translating to “pick me up” in Italian, the phrase refers to the potency of the high-octane, caffeine-laden espresso that gives the concoction its signature coffee taste. Tiramisu’s energy-bestowing and mood-enhancing properties make it a favorite on any date night.

While the connection between tiramisù and Treviso’s recent history is undisputed, whether or not the dessert truly originates there remains a source of contention. Similar layered cake and cream dishes have made up part of Italy’s culinary traditions for a long time. Perhaps most famously, there’s the “zuppa inglese,” or English soup, a layering of custard and sponge. Two competing theories explain how this dessert derived its name: a reference to the similarity to the popular English dessert the trifle, or from the verb "inzuppare," meaning to "sop," or soak up liquid, which is what the biscuits do the Alchermes liqueur poured over them.

The restaurant “Le Beccherie” still makes the dessert with the classic recipe, consisting of ladyfingers soaked in strong espresso coffee, a mascarpone-zabaglione cream, and cocoa powder. The Accademia del Tiramisu, founded in 2011, (this is, after all, Italy, where culinary traditions are taken very, very seriously), offers what it touts as the traditional, original recipe on its website.

Buon appetito! And no worries, you’ll surely find a fun way to burn off all those calories!

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