Friday, April 27, 2012

Luscious Tiramisu in Treviso Italy

The deliciously creamy coffee and chocolate taste of tiramisu puts it high on any list of sweet indulgences. Yet this rich and regal dessert had its origins not in a Renaissance court, but in a family-run restaurant in Italy’s Veneto region, an often overlooked part of the country that delivers exquisite food, wine, and cultural experience in equal measures.

While many hurry through the Veneto on their way to Venice, few stop to sample the delights of this historic region. The relative lack of visitors only adds to the appeal of its small towns and cities, such as Verona, the setting for Romeo and Juliet, Vicenza, a UNESCO World Heritage site for its outstanding Palladian buildings, and Treviso, which makes a charming base for exploration.
Pretty and prosperous, Treviso has authentic Italian charm within its impressive city walls and gateways. Its porticoed main square, Piazza dei Signori, comes to life every evening when locals meet to exchange news and indulge in the ritual of apéritiftaking in the shade of an elegant medieval palazzo with a majestic external flight of stairs.
Central Treviso is a maze of streets lined with arcadedwalkways and dotted with tiny osterias
The peaceful heart of the old town is a maze of narrow alleyways crammed with tiny wine bars serving sparkling local Prosecco. As in Venice, albeit on a smaller scale, water is a big theme. Pretty shaded canals, lined with willow trees and parks, thread through the town – artificial offshoots of the Sile River that rises at a spring on the outskirts before flowing southeast through to the Venice lagoon. Despite its apparent charms, Treviso is no chocolate-box town; it has moved with the times, becoming one of Italy’s leading fashion centers – labels such as Benetton and Sisley are based here – making it a great place to refresh your wardrobe.
Treviso’s famous tiramisu is also a recent innovation. It was developed in the kitchens of the town’s Ristorante Beccherie (see facing page) in 1962 from sbatudin – a pick-me-up for nursing mothers that comprised egg beaten with sugar accompanied by coffee and savoiardi – light-as-air sponge finger biscuits. With the addition of creamy mascarpone and powdered cocoa, the dish gradually evolved into the tiramisu we all know and love today, complementing the bountiful cuisine of the Trevigiano countryside.
The area’s trademark radicchio rosso (red chicory) is also a constant on most restaurant menus, as a delicious wine-red salad, as pâté, or braised and canned. Fresh salad leaves are also served with the traditional pasta e fagioli (bean and pasta) soup, an effective twinning of bitter flavor and soft texture that makes for a classic lunch in the Veneto.

Tiramisu – literally “pick-me-up” – is certainly an upliftingdish, with a kick of coffee and sometimes liqueur

Prosecco Wine
Grown in the Veneto, in the gentle sun-blessed hills around Treviso, Prosecco grapes are used to make the eponymous light white wine. The wine continues to ferment when bottled, producing tiny bubbles that give Prosecco its characteristic sparkle, giggling their way to the surface when the wine is poured. Unlike spumante dessert wines, Prosecco is invariably dry and has been dubbed “Italian champagne.” It can be enjoyed on its own, to accompany a dessert, or mixed with fresh peach purée to make a refreshing Bellini cocktail. It is also widely found in the hugely popular Spritz apéritif consumed of an evening in every piazza of the Veneto. Here it is combined with a bright orange or red mixer – either Campari, Select, or Aperol – and soda, lemon, and a juicy fat green olive.

Grapes are grown for the Veneto’s celebratory drink, Prosecco, in vineyards north of Treviso, where the gentle hills provide a perfect microclimate

Three Days in the Veneto
Treviso itself is well worth exploring and is a fine base for trips to Venice and other towns of the Veneto, and for touring the gentle surrounding countryside.
 Stroll through the heart of Treviso starting at the cobbled Piazza dei Signori, passing inviting delicatessens on Via Trevisi, to the Pescheria, the town’s fish market in the middle of a canal. Adjacent is the atmospheric porticoed walkway, the Buranelli. Walk over to the other side of town for the Cattedrale di San Nicolò to admire its frescoes, which date back to 1352.
Drive northwest through cultivated countryside to the Montello hills, famous for their porcini mushrooms and vineyards around Venegazzu. Trattorias scattered through the woods and clearings serve the local specialties.
Take the train to Venice to wander the car-less streets, and treat yourself to a cappuccino at a canalside café. Don’t miss the mornings-only fresh produce market at Rialto, close to the vast stone arch of the eponymous bridge. Afterward take a relaxing ride on a vaporetto along the Grand Canal to admire the magnificent line-up of palazzos.
Getting to Treviso
Treviso’s Canova Airport, with flights to and from many European cities, is 3 miles (5 km) from the town; Venice’s international Marco Polo Airport is 18 miles (30 km) away, and is well connected to Treviso by train and bus.
Where to stay in Treviso
B&B Dolce Vita (inexpensive) provides cheery lodgings a short hop from downtown Treviso.
Albergo Il Focolare (moderate) is good value in the heart of the town.
Relais Monaco (expensive) is a laid-back country villa with swimming pool and extensive parkland, a short drive out of town.
Via Sant’Andrea 3; +39 04 2254 7632
Best Places to Eat Tiramisu
Ristorante Beccherie moderate
A gastronomic institution, this historic restaurant opened its elegant doors to diners in 1939 and the founder’s grandson and his wife are continuing the tradition as ideal hosts. Unless you have some knowledge of the local dialect, you’d never guess that these lovely premises were a butcher shop back in the 1700s. Alfresco dining is delightful in summer when the tables spill out into the traffic-free square, whereas in winter they’re moved back inside under dark timber beams. The service is both impeccable and friendly, with attention to details like warm plates and tasting portions of extra dishes.
Tiramisu is just one dish that has made this restaurant so well known. Flat slices of the delicate dessert, its thin layers of mascarpone cream and sponge imbued with coffee and cocoa, are served year-round. The rest of the menu respects seasonal produce. Fall brings faraona al forno in salsa péarada – baked guinea fowl in a delicious sauce of liver and herbs. Flavorsome red radicchio stars in winter in delights such as a warming soup or crepes, then at warmer times of year there’s risi e bisi – risotto with fresh peas.
Piazza Ancilotto, Treviso; open for lunch and dinner Tue–Sat, lunch only Sun;
Also in Treviso
Run by a celebrated pastry chef, Pasticceria Andrea Zanin (+39 04 2254 0437; moderate) is a cake shop and café tucked down a narrow street near the main square. It is an ultra-modern haven for professionals and residents who pop in for a quick espresso and something sweet. Heavenly tiramisu is but one of the irresistible mini-portions lined up on the glass counter, a feast for the eyes as well as for the waistline.
Also in Italy
One of the oldest and most venerable cake shops in Venice, Pasticceria Rizzardini (+39 04 1522 3835; moderate) is a tiny standing-room-only establishment. It offers a tough choice: should you opt for an individual slice of luscious tiramisu, a freshly baked fruit tart, or a mini beignet with zabaglione with your cappuccino? The crunchy croccantini (peanut toffee) makes a perfect take-home gift.
Around the World
Run by a non-Italian brother and sister team, Sydney’s Alio (; expensive) serves Italian-inspired food made with the freshest produce and immaculate attention to detail. The almost classic tiramisu is enhanced by the addition of Marsala wine to the fluffy mascarpone mixture, giving a more pungent flavor, while scrumptious albeit bitterish grated chocolate is the finishing touch.

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