The unsung inventor of tiramisu

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October 08, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

You'd never guess it from his humble rowhouse bakery, where he fires up the oven each day at 2 a.m. Or from his little stall in Cross Street market, where, after a few hours' sleep, he peddles pastries until after dinnertime. But Carminantonio Iannaccone invented tiramisu.

At least he says he did, back in Treviso, Italy, in the late 1960s.

No less an expert than David Rosengarten, a food writer and Food Network personality, says it just might be true. On a visit to Baltimore last spring, Rosengarten stumbled upon Iannaccone's Piedigrotta Bakery - and maybe, just maybe, "the confectionary missing link."

"No authority or book ever tells you exactly where it was first made," Rosengarten wrote in his foodie newsletter, The Rosengarten Report. "But the better accounts all say that it was probably invented sometime in the 1960s or 1970s ... Some accounts speculatively pinpoint a bakery or a restaurant that first served it; the place that comes up more than any other is Le Beccherie, in Treviso, near Venice."

Iannaccone told Rosengarten that the bakery he owned in Treviso at that time supplied desserts to Le Beccherie. Rosengarten asked for witnesses. (Dead.) Invoices. (Lost.) I tried e-mailing and calling Le Beccherie. (No luck.)

Rosengarten wrote that he couldn't be sure that Iannaccone's tiramisu was the first. But he was certain that it is "the best one ever."

Ever since, phone and e-mail orders from as far away as Hawaii have poured in to the little Baltimore bakery, which Iannaccone and his wife, Bruna, opened in 2002. An opportunity, you'd think, for a guy who'd been cheated out of his culinary claim to fame. A chance to cash in - and avenge Cool Whip-and-Maxwell House bastardizations.

"Some people, they say, now is the time to make the money," Iannaccone told me.

But the man who spent two years perfecting his tiramisu recipe, who whips his whole eggs and egg whites separately before folding them together so the filling is fluffier, isn't about to rush into the mail-order pastry business. He's not ruling it out. He just wants to do it right, so that someday, if his tiramisu is shipped far and wide, it will taste like it did back in Treviso and Baltimore: "Creamy, beautiful."

Not your grandfather's tycoon

The world, according to Ed Hale, is changing. And here's how, according to a recent presentation by the Maryland Business Council, a group he formed three years ago because he felt like the Rodney Dangerfield of Baltimore business leaders.

Of course, some things never change. Hale's condo is still for sale, a year and a half after it went on the market. The "Just Reduced" price: $1.75 million, down from $2.275. "It's dropping like a wrench," Hale said. "And it's a bargain."

A fugitive with a byline

Eco-terrorist Lacey Phillabaum, who pleaded guilty last week to firebombing a University of Washington horticulture center in 2001, wasn't keeping the lowest profile while she was on the lam. She wrote two bylined articles for Baltimore City Paper last year. One was an Earth Liberation Front-y piece on industrial pollution in Canton. The other reported on the dangers of motorcycle stunts.

A freelancer, Phillabaum pitched those two stories, then kind of disappeared, said Editor Lee Gardner. He said she seemed legit. "She had some kind of gig down in D.C. She wasn't living out of a tent somewhere."

Connect the dots

A Sun report about the Baltimore school board's improper - and expensive - use of emergency contracts piqued the interest of one potential contractor, who e-mailed reporter Sara Neufeld: "Congratulations on an excellent article this past Sunday regarding Baltimore City School's use of contracts. It was very informative," wrote Renee B. Harding, a Columbia clinical psychology consultant. "Do you know whom I should contact to bid for contracts?" ... Keiffer Mitchell, who led William Donald Schaefer on his career-ending tour of Lexington Market, had no better luck squiring Anthony Brown around at last Sunday's Ravens game. Brown took to a stage at a firefighters tailgate party - and was booed. "The last place people want to hear a political speech is before a Ravens game," Mitchell told The Sun's Doug Donovan. "I told him he probably arrived three beers too late."

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