A strong xenophilia is typical in the Mantuan gastronomic tradition. The historical links between the city and the rest of Europe have left strong marks in the local cooking.
A very good example is the Helvetia cake (also spelled Elvetia or Elvezia). Although 'Helvetia' is the Latin name of Switzerland, this cake is typical of Mantua. The dessert was invented at the end of the XVIII century, by the Putscher family. The Putschers were Swiss pastry-chefs, who moved into Mantua from the Graubünden, the largest and easternmost canton of Switzerland. As soon as they opened a shop in Mantua, the Putschers created this recipe, mixing the Swiss pastry techniques and the local ingredients (such as butter, almonds and sabayon). And they decided to call this cake "Helvetia", as a tribute of fame to their ancient land.The Helvetia cake is a dacquoise made with layers of almond-meringue, buttercream and sabayon.
There are some things you can easily imagine about the "Belgian Pudding": it is soft, it is delicious, it has a great taste of chocolate... but there is one thing you probably can not imagine: it is not Belgian!
The "Budino Belga" or "Dolce Belga" (i.e. "Belgian Pudding" or "Belgian Dessert") is a typical dish of the Mantuan gastronomic tradition, made with cream, eggs, vanilla, sugar, chocolate and a glass of cognac.
It is sure it has appeared in Mantua between the 20s and the 30s, but several different versions of the story go about its origin. Maybe it was invented by a belgian pastry chef, who moved in the city. Or maybe it was created for a visit of a Belgian Ambassador. According to the most trustable theory, the recepy was invented by the wife of a Mantuan horse trader, who was dealing for his business with belgian clients (yes: Mantua has a strong connection with horses, since the years of the Gonzaga Family!).
Whatever version of the story you prefer, this is something not to be missed!