Saturday, November 06, 2021


Tiramisu that we enjoyed at Villa Mozart, Fairfax, VA, in 2015. Alas this restaurant is no longer in business.

My first introduction to tiramisu was some tine in the 1980s while Len was attending a meeting in Sicily. The Europeans with whom we were having dinner were familiar with this creamy dessert, which was new and very popular in restaurants where they had eaten. By the end of the 1980s, little cups of tiramisu were available in French supermarkets, as the dish had become very trendy. In the US, its popularity started a bit later, but now it's everywhere!

A recent Costco purchase: imported tiramisu from Italy.
It’s delicious! It’s eternally popular! But it’s not an old tradition!

Tiramisu in the Movies

Remember in "Sleepless in Seattle," the widowed hero Sam (played by Tom Hanks) is worrying about how to act on a date, and his friend brings up tiramisu, as something that’s been invented since Sam was in the dating pool. Sam responds: “Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I’m not gonna know what it is!” In fact, the 1993 film seems to have created a demand for the introduction of tiramisu to restaurants all across the US. More about this:

In the DVD commentary, director and screenwriter Nora Ephron says “It hardly seems possible there was a time when all of America didn’t know what tiramisu was.” But that was indeed the case. The food was so unknown in 1993 that TriStar Pictures, the distributor of Sleepless in Seattle, reportedly received 25-30 phone calls per day from moviegoers asking the meaning of the joke. (source)

Tiramisu in the News this Week 

This week’s tiramisu news offers some background about the originator of this now-popular dessert: from THE GUARDIAN October 31, 2021:

Italy’s father of tiramisu dies aged 93

Restaurateur Ado Campeol launched the coffee-flavoured dessert, whose name means ‘lift me up’, in 1972

An Italian restaurateur known as the “father of tiramisu” has died aged 93. Ado Campeol died at his home in Treviso, in the Veneto region, on Saturday.

Although the dessert’s origins are often disputed and the family never asserted copyright over the recipe, Campeol and his wife, Alba, the owners of the restaurant Alle Beccherie, are widely considered to be its inventor. 

According to historians, the dish – featuring egg yolks whipped with mascarpone cheese, layered over coffee-soaked biscuits and topped with bitter cocoa powder – was added to their restaurant’s menu in 1972.

Tiramisu in Literature 

Now I would like to do a moment’s trivia peeving with Amor Towles, a very popular and otherwise wonderful author. In his new novel, The Lincoln Highway,  Towles depicts a road trip that takes four characters across the USA in the summer of 1954. One character shares a vivid memory of a wonderful New York-Italian restaurant, including a long description of the way Leonello, the owner, works the room and tends to his customers:

After giving the ladies a few compliments, he’ll signal the bartender. Hey, Rocko. Another round over here for my friends. Then he’ll move on to the next table, where there’ll be more shoulder patting, more compliments for the ladies, and another round of drinks. Or maybe this time, it’s a plate of calamari, or some tiramisu. Either way, it’s on the house. And when Leonello’s finished making his rounds, everybody in the place—and I mean everybody from the mayor to Marilyn Monroe—will feel like tonight is something special. (Amor Towles, The Lincoln Highway, p. 163). 

The details about life in 1954 seem very well researched, and I've been enjoying everything about the characters and the setting of the book. But I wonder why Towles didn't seem to do his background checks about the food he names, and I wonder what else he didn't quite get right. He even repeats the mistake: Billy, a curious and very bright kid, asks these questions: "What’s a trattoria...? What’s a paisano? What’s an artichoke and pancetta and tiramisu?" (p. 435). 

I'm almost finished with The Lincoln Highway, and will probably write a glowing review of it soon. But I'm always disappointed when an author disrespects food history!


Melynda@Scratch Made Food! said...

It is a favorite! My first serving came from a dinner at Olive Garden, while commercial in nature, it was still quite delicious and the standard I want to enjoy. We have picked it up at Costco a time or two as well. We saved the little glass cups to make our own, but so far...

Beth F said...

Always a delicious choice.

Bill said...

My wife loves tiramisu, I have never tried it. It does look good though.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Tiramisu is still quite new in some states. In the central plains we are the last to get anything new, and I was saddened to read that an author knew tiramisu in a book he wrote about 1954. Loved learning a bit more about this great dessert.

Claudia said...

Everything one needs to know about Tiramisu. I've made it but quite a long time ago, which should change, as we love it.

Marg said...

My husband loves tiramisu but he is much more of a coffee fan that I am!

Tandy | Lavender and Lime ( said...

This is my second favourite dessert, which I have eaten all over Italy. And most recently at a pizzeria in Amsterdam owned by two young men from Napoli.

DVArtist said...

I have never eaten it.

Aj @ Read All The Things! said...

My mom loves tiramisu. I don't remember when I first had it, but it was probably when I was a kid. I don't like coffee, so it's never been a favorite for me.

My name is Erika. said...

My last year teaching I had a student from Italy who was a wonderful chef and he often made us some tiramisu. After reading this post, I would sure like some right now. hugs-Erika

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

Who knew there was so much to know about this delicious dessert. We've enjoyed it in Italy as well.