Favorite Italian Treats and their Stories

Favorite Italian Treats and their Stories

A picture-perfect gelato on a summer afternoon. Decadent tiramisu after a stylish dinner. Silky smooth panna cotta on a quaint balcony. Something about Italian sweets invites us to romanticize desserts even more than usual. In fact, many traditional Italian desserts have a mythic past that could add to their drama and appeal. (As if they needed that!) Here are some of the best Italian dessert origin stories we know. 


This lavish Italian dessert has a rather risque origin story and is said to have originated as an aphrodisiac, designed by a clever woman who ran a bordello. The legend goes that she offered this dessert as a rejuvenation for her clients, who otherwise would have returned home depleted. While the truth of this story is debated, what is true is that the name tiramisu translates to "pick-me-up," a well-deserved name thanks to the rich combination of coffee, mascarpone, eggs, and cocoa.


These beloved Sicilian pastries with a crispy fried shell filled with a sweet and creamy ricotta cheese filling are associated with Carnevale and were perhaps created by nuns in a convent around the 9th Century CE. Given how tasty this delicate, decadent dessert is, we aren't surprised that they no longer are only enjoyed during festive occasions. 


We may have the ubiquitous Medici family to thank for gelato as we know it, as they reportedly sponsored a contest in Florence to discover the most delicious frozen dessert. The champion of the competition? An alchemist who wowed royalty with his masterful creation, gelato. Ice was not readily available to most people during the summers in the 1500s, so the widespread popularity of the dessert had to wait a few hundred years. 

Also, to clear up a misconception regarding ice cream vs. gelato: They aren't the same! Gelato is made with a higher proportion of milk and contains less fat than ice cream. It often uses fewer egg yolks or none and tends to have a lower air content, resulting in a denser, more flavorful texture. 


Panettone is a traditional Christmas bread from Milan, usually enjoyed during the holiday season. For the uninitiated, it's a tall, dome-shaped bread typically studded with candied fruits and raisins. Legend has it that in the 15th century, panettone was created by a young nobleman named Ughetto, who fell in love with a baker's daughter and created the sweet bread to win her over. We carry many versions of panettone that would win us over, too!

Most of these stories have a distinct tone of embellishment, but that doesn't stop us from indulging in them! Whether these stories are real or imagined, what is very real is how delicious the desserts they describe are!

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