Caesar salad is probably the most popular salad among others. It is made with ingredients such as lemon juice, olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, garlic, and Dijon mustard. It is almost everyone’s favorite when it comes to salads, but have you ever wondered how and where the very first Caesar salad was made and served?
It’s true that discovering the surprising origin of the food we love feels great, especially when we see that there’s more behind it even though we think we know it so well. If you’re also curious about the origins of Caesar salad, then read on because we are going to tell you about its interesting history.
Some might think that Caesar salad must have been named for Julius Caesar, or maybe he was the one who invented it. But Caesar salads have no connection to Julius Caesar or any of the Caesars who ruled Rome.
The creation of Caesar salad is generally attributed to an Italian immigrant and restaurateur named Caesar Cardini, who operated restaurants in Mexico and the United States.
Caesar Cardini was born in 1896, and you know it’s not easy to trace someone’s life history so long ago. He was born near Lago Maggiore, Italy. Caesar and his brother Alex migrated to the U.S. after World War I. However, an ad from Cardini’s restaurant published in 1919 tells that he moved to California in the 1910s. Early documentation tells his first joint venture in Sacramento, but there is also evidence that he worked at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
Caesar Cardini migrated to North America in the 1910s. Later on, he made his way to San Diego, where he operated a French restaurant in a building on University Avenue. However, in 1920, Congress enacted prohibition across the United States. Cardini kept his business in San Diego, but he opened a new restaurant across the border in Tijuana where he could serve alcohol.
In 1938, Cardini moved to Los Angeles and opened a gourmet food store there. His lovers followed him there, too, with empty wine bottles for him to fill with some Caesar dressing. In 1948, the demand for his famous sauce made him decide to bottle it and make Caesar’s Cardini Foods.
There are many dibs on who hatched Caesar salad; while there are no records to prove this, but it is worth showing. In George Herter’s Book (the Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes), he talked about who invented Caesar salad. According to him, Caesar salad was invented by Giacomo Junia, an Italian cook in Chicago. Giacomo Junia catered to American tastes as pizza and spaghetti eaten by anyone, including Italians.
He emphasized in his book that it is a wrong statement that this dressing was invented in Tijuana, during the prohibition period, and also in San Francisco. The only best thing invented in Tijuana was the methods and techniques ever produced to clip tourists.
Further, he claimed that Junia called the salad “Caesar Salad” and put lettuce, an additional ingredient, to add a sore touch to the salad. He named the salad Caesar Salad after Julius Caesar, the greatest Italian ruler of all time. According to the author, Junia never thought that the salad would be a big hit and was amazed when people began to ask for the recipe.
This Giacomo Junia claim may be a made-up story, but as we know, a single recipe can be tested by many people with different ingredients, so it might be the reason for adding someone to the inventor list. But, history says Cardini Caesar and his family were the original inventors of this salad dressing.
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According to legend, Cardini invented Caesar salad in 1924 in his restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico. Based on his daughter Rosa, it was on July 4, 1924, when her father created the Caesar salad. It was when their kitchen’s supplies depleted, and to solve the shortage of foods to serve, Cardini threw together a bunch of ingredients he had on hand and served his concoction to his friends. And that improvised dish caught on even though it was originally intended as a finger food than a salad and prepared tableside for flair.
According to What’s Cooking America, the original recipe of Caesar salad included romaine, garlic, croutons, Parmesan cheese, boiled egg, olive oil, and Worcestershire sauce. There are also several disagreements on the story, and some claim that it was not Caesar Cardini who invented the salad but his brother Alex.
In 1926, Alex came to Tijuana to help his brother with the restaurant. Then one night, a group of American airmen from Rockwell Field Air Base in San Diego partied at Caesar’s. As a fellow pilot, Alex wanted to create a delicious treat for them; that’s why he put together a finger food from the best ingredients he could find in the restaurant’s kitchen. He used many of the same things in Caesar’s salad, but he added anchovies. He called that version the Aviator’s salad in honor of those he had made it for. That version of the salad was well-received that it became the standard and was later on renamed as the Caesar salad.
Furthermore, in an interview, Cardini claimed that the salad did not become famous until 1937 when a screenwriter named Manny Wolfe gave his recipe to different restaurants. By 1947, it came into the limelight after a food blogger introduced it at Waldorf-Astoria’s special promotion.
But that’s not all, because there’s another story claiming that it wasn’t a Cardini who invented the salad but Livio Santini who was an employee at Caesar’s restaurant. Livio was also an Italian immigrant, and he said that Caesar’s salad was his mother’s recipe. It’s just that the salad became so popular that Cardini claimed it as his own. Many itinerant chefs from different countries learned to make the salad, and it got hyped all over Europe and America.
But no matter what the exact origin story is, it is certain that the salad gained popularity at Caesar’s Tijuana establishment, and it also became a tourist attraction on its very own. Julia Child, a famed chef, shared that she had eaten a Caesar salad at Cardini’s restaurant when she was younger. She even included in her book titled “From Julia Child’s Kitchen”, her family’s highly anticipated lunch at that restaurant back in the 1920s. She said that during that time, it was a sensation of a salad from coast to coast and there were even rumblings about its success in Europe.
Caesar salad became so popular that in 1948, Caesar had to patent his recipe. In 1953, the Caesar Salad was named as the greatest recipe to originate in the Americas in the last half-century by the Paris’ International Society of Epicure.
In the present time, Caesar salad is being served everywhere, and it is even made at home as well. Aside from that, more than a dozen varieties of bottled Cardini’s dressing are available today, and they are made with different ingredients as well. But if you really want to taste the original Caesar salad, then maybe one day you can pay Caesar’s Restaurant in Tijuana a visit and have a taste of history.