No, not the Roman Emperor, but this leaf lover’s crunchy crouton delight is arguably more famous than Julius himself. We might have the roads to thank the Romans for, but all the plaudits for the creation of the Caesar salad go to Caesar Cardini an Italian restaurateur born in 1896.
Cardini immigrated to the United States with his brother shortly after WWI and set up restaurants in San Diego and Tijuana in Mexico. Legend has it (according to Cardini’s daughter Rosa) that on a busy July 4th weekend in 1924 at his restaurant in Tijuana, Cardini was faced with a supply cupboard down to its bare bones and was tasked with using all his cooking prowess to create a dish for his hungry and eagerly anticipating diners.
Among the ingredients served were romaine lettuce, eggs, lemons, garlic, olive oil, a wedge of Romano cheese and some stale white bread. The salad turned out to be a hit, and as word rapidly spread, customers began to flock to Cardini’s restaurant in a bid to sample the latest culinary trend.
Despite his heroics, Cardini’s claim as creator soon came under serious scrutiny from numerous sources who sought recognition as inventors. Several waiters and busboys who had been taught to make the salad on July 4th in 1924 hotly disputed Cardini’s claims, but arguably his greatest opposition came in the form of his brother.
Alex Cardini argued that he was the salad’s rightful father, and it was in fact called ‘Aviator’s Salad’, created to feed American airmen from San Diego. A story soon emerged from retired airmen that backed up the salad’s ‘Aviator’ credentials, but not the name of its original creator. Word has it that after a long night drinking at Caesar’s restaurant, several soldiers awoke to find a freshly made salad titled ‘Aviator’ that had all the classic ingredients of a Caesar but with added anchovies. Alex soon went on to open his own restaurant in Mexico City, selling his own version of the salad but calling it ‘The original Alex Cardini Caesar salad’.
Caesar was never fond of his brother’s added ingredients, and instead stuck to his own tried and tested recipe that he began mass producing as a dressing at a grocery store in Los Angeles. In 1956 Caesar passed away, but his legacy lives on and has touched nearly every corner of the globe. Whilst the origins of the Caesar salad are somewhat murky, its quality has never been in doubt, and it goes to show that anyone can create a legendary meal with just a few ingredients to hand.
We bet you really want to make one now!