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There are a lot of myths and legends surrounding tiramisu, a dessert you’ll find on the menu of most Italian restaurants. It didn’t really take off in American restaurants until the 1980s, but once it started appearing on menus, it never went away. The name means “pick me up,” and it’s easy to see why. Loaded with sugar, coffee, and (usually) booze, a tiramisu is just the thing to give you a bit of a boost after a long evening. But where did it come from, and why did it take so long to become popular?


Let’s dig in to the delicious history of tiramisu.


Siena and Florence

Though it may or may not be true, legend has it that a dessert resembling tiramisu was made in the 17th century for the Grand Duke Cosimo de Medici III. The Duke was visiting Siena, and a local chef created the dessert in his honor. The Duke liked it so much that he took the recipe back with him to Florence. In the 19th century, tiramisu become popular with English intellectuals and artists living in Florence. They brought it back to England, where its popularity took off.



Whether the story about the Duke enjoying something similar to tiramisu and English poets eating it 200 years later is true or not, we do know where the modern version of tiramisu originated. It is actually quite recent history. In 1972, a restaurant called Le Beccherie in Treviso, near Venice, put tiramisu on their menu. One of their chefs accidentally “invented” it when someone dropped mascarpone into a bowl containing eggs and sugar. They decided they liked the taste and then added ladyfingers soaked in coffee liquor to the mix.



Both New York City and San Francisco claim to be where tiramisu first became popular in America in the 1980s. In the early 80s, Italian family restaurants in New York started to make tiramisu and add it to their menus. The New York Times reported that tiramisu was an “obsession” in San Francisco, so it probably started in New York and then spread to other cities. By the 1900s, however, it had taken the country by storm and it is never going away.


italian restaurants

Tiramisu and Italian Restaurants

No matter where it first came from, tiramisu has earned its place as a favorite dessert at Italian restaurants. At Cello’s Farmhouse Italian, it’s one of our favorites, too. Get it the traditional way with coffee liqueur, or try our limoncello spin on it. We can’t decide which we like better!

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