Caesar salad, invented in Mexico by Italian immigrants, is still a delight for the palate after 100 years

The Caesar salad has something to celebrate: it’s 100 years old.

Italian immigrant Caesar Cardini is said to have invented the dish on July 4, 1924, at his restaurant Caesar’s Place in Tijuana, MexicoIt was a sultry night and Cardini was struggling to feed the influx of Californians who had crossed the border to escape Ban.

In the middle of the dining room, Cardini tossed whole romaine leaves with ingredients he had on hand, including garlic oil, Worcestershire sauce, lemons, eggs and Parmesan cheese. A star was born.

Tijuana plans to celebrate the anniversary this month with a three-day food and wine festival and the unveiling of a statue of Cardini. Caesar’s, an elegant restaurant that Cardini opened in Tijuana a few years after the salad’s birth, says it still makes about 300 Caesar salads a day.

Unlike some other menu items from the early 20th century – think creamed liver bread or aspic – Caesar salad remains a perennial favorite. About 35 percent of U.S. restaurants have Caesar salad on their menus, according to Technomic, a restaurant consulting firm. And nearly 43 million bottles of Caesar salad dressing—or $150 million worth—were sold in the U.S. last year, according to Nielsen IQ.

Beth Forrest, professor of liberal arts and applied nutrition studies at the Culinary Institute of Americasaid it took a few years for Caesar salad to become popular. A recipe because it didn’t matter “Joy of cooking,” one of the most popular American cookbooks until the 1951 edition. In the 1960s and 1970s, Caesar salad was often prepared tableside, which gave it spectacle and sophistication, she said.

Forrest said Caesar salad is ideal for the Western palate because it has our two favorite textures: crunchy and creamy. The egg yolks and Parmesan cheese are also high in glutamic acids, which give the salad the rich, salty flavor known as ” umami-like.

“It satisfies us in many hedonistic ways, while still allowing us to feel virtuous. It is a salad after all,” Forrest said.

Caesar’s many variations have also made it a keeper, experts say. Chefs can add chicken, bacon or salmon, kale or brussels sprouts and make the dressing from miso paste or tofu.

At Beatrix, a five-restaurant chain in Chicago that makes healthier versions of comfort food, chef and partner Andrew Ashmore spreads a spoonful of yogurt-based dressing in the bottom of a salad bowl and tosses it with capers, parsley, lemon vinaigrette, and Champagne vinegar. Then he adds little gem lettuce, baby arugula, breadcrumbs, and a generous amount of Grada Padano cheese.

“It’s our best-selling salad, and it’s been since we opened 11 years ago,” Ashmore said. “I couldn’t take it off the menu even if I wanted to.”

Cardini was not given to varying his recipe. In a 1987 interview with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, his daughter Rosa Cardini said her father was meticulous in preparing his creation. He used only the tender, inner leaves of romaine lettuce and left them whole, intending for diners to pick them up with their fingers. He boiled the eggs for a minute before adding them, and he didn’t use anchovies.

There is some debate about the salad’s origins. Some claim that the recipe actually came from the mother of Livio Santini, one of Cardini’s chefs and a fellow Italian immigrant. Others say that Cardini’s brother Alex was the creator of the salad, which he made with limes and anchovy paste. Alex’s version was called the “Aviator’s Salad” because he reportedly served it to pilots at a base in San Diego.

Forrest said the recipe also echoes old Italian specialties. It’s similar to a pinzimonio, a dressing made from olive oil and lemon juice used as a vegetable dip, or a bagna cauda, ​​a hot anchovy and garlic dip from the Piedmont region where Cardini was born.

Caesar’s in Tijuana did not respond to The Associated Press’ request for information about the salad’s history, but the restaurant does mention Santini’s name on its website.

Business in Tijuana declined after the end of Prohibition, so Caesar Cardini moved his family to Los Angeles in 1935. They bottled their Caesar dressing at home before eventually founding Caesar Cardini Foods Inc.

Rosa Cardini took over the family business in 1956, after her father’s death, eventually adding 17 other dressing departments. T.Marzettia manufacturer of dressings and dips, acquired Cardini Foods in 1996 and still sells Caesar Cardini brand dressings.


Durbin reported from Detroit.

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