Not So Sweet: Italian Regions in Bitter Battle Over Who Invented Tiramisu

by Nick Squires, The Telegraph, August 8, 2017

A beguiling concoction of marsala, mascarpone and sponge fingers, it is one of the world’s most popular desserts, but tiramisu has left nothing but bitterness between two rival regions in Italy. 

Veneto and neighbouring Friuli Venezia Giulia have for years been locked in a battle over which is the true birthplace of tiramisu, which is loved, imitated and bastardised in kitchens around the globe.

Friuli Venezia Giulia has now scored a significant victory in the culinary clash after persuading the Italian government to list tiramisu as one of its traditional dishes with an official decree. 

It has been included on a list of “prodotti agroalimentari tradizionali”, or traditional food products, as originating from the towns of Udine and Gorizia, both in Friuli Venezia Giulia, a region that abuts Austria and Slovenia in Italy’s north-east.

“It’s been recognised as being characteristic of this region,” said Cristiano Shaurli, a regional politician in charge of agriculture. “This is a really important result and it fills us with satisfaction. We’re proud to have finally obtained a result that sanctifies once and for all the links between tiramisu and Friuli Venezia Giulia, earning gastronomic prestige for the entire region.”

The Friulians insist their claim is backed up by historical records, some of which were dug up by a pair of food writers last year.

Clara and Gigi Padovani unearthed recipes from the 1950s which referred to a dessert called “tirime su” or “tirimi su” being produced in the region, including at a restaurant in the town of Tolmezzo in 1959. “We travelled all over Italy to discover the true origins of tiramisu,” they said at the launch of a book they wrote on the quest to pin down the dessert’s provenance.

But the Friulians’ claim to culinary fame has been met with outrage just across the border in the Veneto.

The Veneto region, which encompasses Venice, has long claimed the title, insisting that the dessert was created in a restaurant in the town of Treviso in the 1970s.

Luca Zaia, the governor of Veneto, is even threatening to launch a legal battle to challenge his neighbours’ presumption. “I’m literally thunderstruck in response to this decree,” he said. “It seems to me that someone has given the ministry not entirely accurate documentation.

“By signing this decree and assigning such recognition to Friuli Venezia Giulia, the ministry has effectively said that it counts for nothing that five million Veneto people recognise tiramisu as one of their typical dishes and that it counts for nothing that we have an industry based around this product. I ask the ministry to suspend the decree.”

Veneto insists that the dessert was invented at a restaurant in Treviso by Ada Campeol, who craved something that would give her an energy boost after the birth of her son. “Tiramisu” means “pick-me-up” in Italian. Her pastry chef, Roberto ‘Loly’ Linguanotto, is also credited with having a hand in the creation.

According to another story, the creamy dish was created as an energy-giving treat for prostitutes working in an Italian brothel in the 1950s.

Mr. Zaia has fiercely defended Veneto’s claim to tiramisu for years, calling on the EU to recognise Treviso as the true home of tiramisu, in the same way that Naples has been recognized as the crucible of pizza.

Best-ever tiramisu recipe 

This article was written by Nick Squires from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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