‘Pick me up’: the literal translation of tira mi sù, could refer to the coffee, or the booze. But when you take on board its metaphorical connotation –‘make me happy’ – the version of its history that sees it as the favoured pick-me-up of Venetian courtiers, eaten between bouts of, ahem, courting, looks all the more valid.
That said, this most loved of Italian desserts is posited by many to have a far shorter history than you may have guessed. Some say it has only existed since the late 60s, born in Treviso at a restaurant called Le Beccherie. Others claim that it evolved, as Lorenza De’Medici suggests in Italy: The Beautiful Cookbook, from a dessert made in Siena, zuppa del duca. The evolution from trifle, like those ‘zuppa Inglese’ made in Italy with sponge, liqueur, chocolate, custard and cream, to the espresso-injected, mascarpone-lightened version we love today, at any rate, seems a reasonable bet.
For the best results, use the finest mascarpone you can lay your hands on, and good coffee, and try to serve it fresh, so that the savoiardi biscuits still have some texture.