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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Jewish-Italian Family Tiramisu Business Finds New Life During Pandemic

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Giovanni Bolla is a master of the art of tiramisu, the Italian dessert featuring coffee-dipped ladyfingers and mascarpone cream. Like most small business operators, Bolla, 71, has been affected by the coronavirus crisis, but he is still open for business, completing deliveries all over Los Angeles while ensuring his customers his deliveries are “100% contact-less.”

Bolla, a native of the Piedmont region of northern Italy, lives in a studio apartment in Encino, wears a kippah and davens every morning. He has been preparing the tiramisu in the commercial kitchen of his synagogue, Temple Knesset Israel of Hollywood. His daughter, Isabelle, told the Journal they are currently looking to rent a kitchen space where Bolla can continue making the dessert.

Italian for “pick me up,” or “cheer me up,” tiramisu may be the perfect desert for these unprecedented pandemic times, according to Isabelle, who has helped her father through challenging personal struggles, including divorce, depression, the death of her half-sister and a period when her father was destitute and living out of his car.

Bolla was once a caterer for the Beverly Hills elite but poor choices led him down a dark path. During her father’s challenging period, Isabelle was living in Spain. She received many anxious phone calls from her father and eventually returned to Los Angeles.

“I think my tiramisu is divinely inspired. I thank God every day when I go to sleep and when I wake up.” — Giovanni Bolla

 

“For me it was important to come back and give him some foundation,” she said.

Last year, Bolla decided to make Isabelle tiramisu for her birthday, per a long-held family tradition, and he made her so much that she decided to give the leftovers to friends. “It is not that hard to get people to accept tiramisu,” she said.

It was then Isabelle realized that helping her father launch a small tiramisu business could help him get back on his feet. At the time, he couldn’t even afford to pay to do his laundry, she said.

Drawing on her social media and marketing savvy, Isabelle last July created an Instagram page for her father’s fledgling business, featuring photos of smiling customers receiving the tiramisu delivered to their homes by Bolla himself.

He continues to deliver the tiramisu to customers. The simple act of making it and bringing it to others has reawakened his youthful spirit, Isabelle said, noting, “He’ll make it fresh and with love.”

In a video interview with the Journal, Bolla said, “I think my tiramisu is divinely inspired,” adding “I thank God every day when I go to sleep and when I wake up.”

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, more people have been having food delivered to their homes, and Bolla has benefited, filling orders for anniversaries and birthdays, Isabelle said. To ensure the safety of his customers, he drops the orders on their doorstep.

The cost of the half-size of tiramisu is $30 and a full-size is $55. Bolla even prepares gluten-free versions of his desserts.

Giovanni Bolla’s tiramisu, which he delivered wearing gloves and a mask to the reporter’s home on Friday April 24, 2020.

Isabelle described the taste of her father’s tiramisu as utterly unique. “The recipe is very specific to him,” she said, adding it’s “sweet but not overly sweet, indulgent but not too rich, and I think it’s perfect any time of the day. You can have some in the morning with your coffee and at night for dinner.”

Asked if her father’s tiramisu was the best she’d had, Isabelle admitted it was hard for her to be objective. “I am biased,” she said, “but it is by far my favorite.”

And for Bolla, he said the response to his little tiramisu business has been “overwhelming. The happiness a little cake brings to [people] in this moment is perfect.”

For more information or to order Bolla’s tiramisu, visit the website.

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