Nothing says "junior high prom" to me like a fine square of tiramisu, which is to say it's the meal-ending hallmark of every meal I ever ate at The Olive Garden. That's also to say that since I became a serious eater, I've generally ignored the dessert and relegated it to the pile of other 1980s fine dining hits, such as the crab cake and the caprese salad.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself scanning the pastry case at the old school bakery D'Amato's on Grand (they still bake bread in a coal burning oven) and impulsively selecting out a square of tiramisu. I don't know what happened, but now that I reflect on it I think maybe it was the dessert version of buying a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 or Boone's Farm a few years after high school graduation—you know, just to see if it was really that bad.
And although I definitely love me a little Strawberry Hill or Snow Creek Berry Boone's from time to time, I honestly know the stuff is swill. Likewise, most tiramisu I've had has been a disaster featuring soggy coffee-logged spongecake and bitter chocolate powder-etched cloying Cool Whip-like cream.
But in the D'Amato's version, lady fingers retain an airy integrity, the cream is truly whipped, and its light sweetness is mitigated by a touch of rich, bitter cocoa. After a few bites, I'm thinking I may need to start ordering crab cakes at restaurants again.
1124 West Grand Avenue, Chicago IL 60642 (at North May Street; map) 312-733-5456
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