Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Salad fit for a Roman Emperor?

If we asked you to guess the origins of Caesar salad, you’d be forgiven for thinking it dated back to the Roman Empire, or at the very least, was enjoyed at some point by emperor Julius Caesar. The truth is a little less romantic than any ideas of Roman banquets and gladiatorial feasts you may have.
The dish in fact was invented in the US in 1924 as part of that year’s American Independence Day celebrations. Its creator – the slightly more humble Caesar Cardini – was a Californian restaurant owner of Italian descent. Short on ingredients after a busy day in one of his restaurants he rustled together some of what was left to create a salad, serving it at tables himself to add creative flair (and possibly detract attention away from the relatively simple mix of ingredients). Locally, it was a popular dish from the start, but it was only when it reached the tables of Hollywood that it really took off and word of its simple, but effective combination of flavors spread – along with the name of the creator, which swiftly became associated with the dish.
Usually made with romaine or cos lettuce, croutons, oil, lemon juice, egg yolks and parmesan cheese, to this day you’ll find Caesar salad on menus all over America and Europe. Yet in Italy, you may have to work a little harder to track it down, which some find strange for a dish believed by many to be as Italian as pasta and pizza.