But Caesar Salad is Italian, Isn't it?

I’m about to tell you that we are adding a Caesar salad to our menu here at Dos Perros. That’s right, a Caesar salad to the menu of a Mexican restaurant.

“But I thought Caesar salad was Italian?” you’re probably thinking.

Not exactly.

Photo from the San Diego History Center

Photo from the San Diego History Center

The now-famous Caesar salad was first developed in 1924 by Italian-born Caesar Cardini. Cardini owned the Hotel Caesar, located in, yes, Tijuana, Mexico.  

Saying Caesar salad is Italian is like saying the state of Ohio is the birth of flight.  Try as they might, nobody outside of that state cares that Orville and Wilbur were born there, because we all know the first flights really went down in Kitty Hawk, NC. It even says so on our license plates!

But back to salad. Legend has it, Cardini was low on food, expecting a busy 4th of July weekend and had to come up with something quick to serve the expected crowd.  What he had on-hand was eggs, lettuce, bread, and Parmesan cheese.  Now, I’m not sure why so many flocked south of the border on the 4th, but then again, given the confusion about Cinco de Mayo being Mexican Independence Day (it’s not, by the way), I’ve given up trying to keep up with the stories about Mexico and Independence Day(s).

Caesar Cardini’s original recipe included no anchovies, but got its flavor instead from Worcestershire Sauce.  It was his brother Alex’s Aviator Salad (named because of his history as a fighter pilot in WWI), also originally developed at Hotel Caesar, that used anchovy filets and eventually replaced Caesar’s dressing recipe as the one more widely-accepted.

A hint about one of the changes we plan to make to the classic Caesar: Mexican cotija cheese (like what we use with our elote) instead of Parmesan.

A hint about one of the changes we plan to make to the classic Caesar: Mexican cotija cheese (like what we use with our elote) instead of Parmesan.

Though Caesar himself decried the use of anchovies in the dressing, I, for one, am happy his brother came along to improve it. It’s how I make my caesar dressing at home and how we will serve it at Dos Perros.

We will be making a couple of changes, though. Over the years, the dish has evolved and many Mexican restaurants, perhaps in an attempt to reclaim it, have taken to using fried tortilla strips instead of croutons and cotija cheese instead of parmesan.  I, personally, like it both ways, but figured that we’d also give it that twist at Dos Perros.  

Despite the fact that Caesar dressings are often made table-side to much fanfare, I’m not a fan of making it to order.  I think that’s just for show and leads to inconsistency.  Caesar dressing should be both thick and very strong in order to compete with romaine, which boasts a high water content as well as strong taste of its own. So a dressing that’s too thin or too mild leads to a bland and watery salad.  


Want to make Charlie's own Caesar salad recipe at home? Click here for the recipe, courtesy Chapel Hill Magazine.


Should you make it at home, you either want to test it by dipping a piece of romaine into it, or it should seem too strong if you’re tasting it by itself.  Essentially, you’re making a very strong garlic, lemon, anchovy aioli.  And please, above all things, do not try to make it “fancy” by using baby romaine or mixed greens.  You need proper, mature, crunchy romaine, as baby lettuce will just drown in the dressing.

Or, better still, just come on in to Dos Perros.  It was on our original menu and we’ve brought it back in honor of our seventh anniversary.  We’ll be launching the new menu, including the Caesar salad, when we reopen in early September after closing for a few days to spruce the place up a bit.

Buon apetito! I mean, buen provecho!