Clara and Gigi Padovani have been spreading food culture with their books for about twenty years and have dedicated one of their successful books to tiramisu, the most famous Italian dessert in the world. Gigi is a food journalist and critic, a member of the Centro Studi Nazionale dell’Accademia Italiana della Cucina e Accademico, senior editor and news correspondent of “La Stampa” for thirty years, has won several awards and participates in numerous TV programs; Clara is a former lecturer, researcher in the history of cooking, which she tells live with national radio stations. Together, they are active on the web with their websites (www.claragigipadovani.com) and in social networks with thousands of followers and views. They have been defined “the founding couple of Italian food writing” and have published over twenty books, some of which have been translated into six languages. Their latest publication is the Enciclopedia della nocciola (Mondadori Electa 2019). Since 2017, March 21st, which coincides with the beginning of the Spring season, has been identifies by them as the Tiramisù Day: a celebration that aims at contributing to the spread of a dish that is part of the pride of Made in Italy.
During your career you have written about many Italian excellences, but what does tiramisu mean for the made in Italy?
We have collected many interesting stories in our book, published in 2016, and we are happy that this has awakened great interest for this homemade pastry cake in the North East of Italy. Today we are living a difficult moment for our Country, we are all distressed because of the health emergency that has hit us, however, we think that giving us a moment of sweetness helps us to better endure it, with everyone of us preparing this simple masterpiece of infinite delicacies in our home. Iginio Massari, the founder of the Accademia Maestri Pasticceri, told us something about our book: “By now it has become a social cake, beyond any battle over fatherhood or motherhood. Tiramisu belongs to all mothers, it is the cake of love, of the Italian family”. By now it has crossed national borders, becoming the heritage of humanity. Since the 80s and 90s it has become popular all over the world, turning into a “gastronomic Italianism” present in 23 languages, such as pasta and pizza (which have much more ancient origins).
Can we say that you were the first ones who dedicated a book to the tiramisu? Where did the idea come from?
Since we started to dedicate ourselves to our passion of telling about food through videos, articles, books, events, we have also travelled a lot: United States, Russia, South America, Argentina, China, Australia, New Zealand, as well as European countries like Spain and France. We have thus seen how tiramisu is the protagonist in many restaurants (not only Italian ones) and pastry shops. So we told each other: why don’t we try to discover more about this dessert? Where was it born, when? Without preconceptions, at home we searched in our books, which make up a “culinary” library of about 2000 volumes, and then, with direct interviews, we were able to reconstruct a thread that led us to Lombardy for the mascarpone, then to Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto.
We read that, in order to collect testimonies and material for the book, you travelled throughout the North East of Italy and you met all the characters who represent its living history. What memories do you have?
It was an exciting adventure and, as always, we based our work on documentary sources and direct interviews. The children of the now deceased cooks and chefs from Friuli or Veneto, from Tolmezzo (Ud), Pieris (Go) or Treviso, were fond of memories, testimonies and original documents and welcomed us into their homes and restaurants as if we were ‘liberators’, who finally rediscovered their long-forgotten history. And we found enthusiastic support from the big Italian and foreign starred chefs (from France, Spain, Slovenia, United States, Argentina, China, Japan) to whom we asked for their ‘creative’ recipe. This allowed us to write a ‘choral’ book with many testimonies from all over the world, which we have also collected through videos on the website www.mytiramisu.it.
You have promoted Tiramisu Day which is celebrated every year on March 21st, the first day of spring, and which involves fans from all over the world. Did the idea ome about before the book?
No, the idea was born almost by chance, after the publication of the book that aroused heated debates and controversy between regions, which we sincerely did not expect: we said it would be fair to dedicate a ‘food day also to the cake’, as in many other cases, especially in the United States. And what better day, if not the one that defines the arrival of spring? We found the support of Eataly stores around the world in 2017, with events in New York and Trieste. In 2018 we celebrated it at Fico Eataly World in Bologna with the mayors of Tolmezzo and Treviso, who came for a friendly competition won by the Venetian city. In 2019 we repeated the celebration that we had at Fico, with the ‘pistoccus’ from Sardinia and the Piedmontese ladyfingers, and this time the duel was played by two hospitality institutes: on the highest step of the podium the Sardinian cookies. This year, due to the dramatic situation created by the coronavirus, we comply with the indication #stayhome: we celebrate the #tiramisuday within the family, by preparing original or creative recipes.
From your experience, how popular is the tiramisu worldwide?
It is really popular, as we have observed. And even on the web it is among the most searched Italian words everywhere. In the United States it became famous after Tom Hanks’ joke in the film by Nora Ephron Insonnia d’amore (1993); in Japan, since the 90s, there have been restaurants with this name; in China and Holland they have shot movies called Tiramisù; in Vietnam it gave its name to a rock band; it is the subject of competitions for the Guinness World Record in Italy and around the world. A truly surprising and magic success.
In the end, who does tiramisu belong to? Veneto or Friuli Venezia Giulia?
It is a symbol of the Italian gastronomic heritage, it belongs to all of us. From a historical point of view, it was created by a restaurant owner from Friuli, Norma Pielli, in the Hotel Roma in Tolmezzo (we found the receipts from 1959), although in Pieris di San Canzian d’Isonzo the chef Mario Cosolo created a Coppa Vetturino that was called “Tirime su” already in 1950 (there is a photographic proof). Years later, it appeared in two of Treviso’s restaurants, Al Camin, with the Imperial Cup (1958) by the chef Speranza Bon, and finally the traditional version at the Beccherie of the Campeol family, made by Loli Linguanotto and Alba Di Pillo (around 1970). The first recipe published in 1981 appeared in a magazine in Treviso, “Vin Veneto”. And it was the Venetians, especially in Venice, who spread it around the world. This is the documented history, everything else is a myth. In order to date a dish, you need to find a written recipe, and in no food treaty preceding 1983 appears the tiramisu.
Who is the one between you who prepares the best tiramisu? Which recipe do you prefer?
Gigi: “I leave the floor to Clara, in the kitchen I peel the potatoes or beat the eggs, then I take photos of the dishes that she prepares.”.
Clara: “In the book we published the four original recipes, and those remain my favourites. I have also created some ‘mixes’, I hope that Venetians and Friulians will forgive me. But after our last book, a 360-degree treaty on one of our Country’s treasures, the Corylus Avellana, entitled Enciclopedia della nocciola, I like to share with the readers of your website the recipe that I published, con una crema alla nocciola.
At the Tiramisù World Cup, for the Tiramisu Day we want to challenge you with the contest “The Best Tiramisu of Instagram”, just to allow you to have fun from home. Click here and you could be the winner!