The Vintage Press Caesar Salad From Chef David Vartanian


VISALIA, Calif. — Many people believe the Caesar salad was named after Julius Caesar — it’s not. The Caesar salad was invented by an Italian-American man named Caesar Cardini in about 1924. This legendary salad’s creation is generally credited to restaurateur Cardini, an Italian immigrant who operated restaurants in Mexico and the United States. Cardini was living in San Diego, but he was also working in Tijuana where he avoided the restrictions of Prohibition. Throughout Prohibition, Tijuana was the place for many Southern California elites and celebrities to go for a drink and entertainment. The Los Angeles Times called Tijuana “the city that was Vegas before Vegas was Vegas.”

Cardini was born in 1896. As expected, it’s a little difficult tracing someone’s life so long ago. However, an advertisement from Cardini’s restaurant in 1919 suggests he moved to California in the 1910s. Early records document his first joint venture in Sacramento. There is also evidence that he worked at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Later, he opened another restaurant in San Diego. However, in 1920, Prohibition threw a wrench in his restauranteur dreams. It was shortly after this that he invented his famous salad. In her cookbook From Julia Child’s Kitchen, Child recounted traveling to Cardini’s restaurant:

My parents, of course, ordered the salad. Caesar himself rolled the big cart up to the table, tossed the romaine in a great wooden bowl, and I wish I could say I remembered his every move, but I don’t. They only thing I see again clearly is the eggs. I can see him break 2 eggs over that romaine and roll them in, the greens going all creamy as the eggs flowed over them. Two eggs in a salad? Two one-minute coddled eggs? And garlic-flavored croutons, and grated Parmesan cheese? It was a sensation of a salad from coast to coast, and there were even rumblings of its success in Europe.

Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Jean Harlow, John Barrymore, and Charlie Chaplin were just a few of the famous movie stars known to frequent Tijuana in the 1920s for a little drinking and gambling. It was in this atmosphere that Caesar Cardini opened his restaurant along the then-hopping Main Street, today called Avenida Revolución.

Since 1966, the Vartanian family has welcomed countless local residents, travelers, and international dignitaries to The Vintage Press, their celebrated restaurant in downtown Visalia, California. With four distinctive dining rooms and classic and creative menus that reflect the seasons, The Vintage Press is a gourmet destination. Here’s the restaurant’s signature recipe for Caesar Salad created tableside each evening by Chef David Vartanian.*


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3 large heads romaine lettuce

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups diced sourdough bread

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

12 anchovy fillets

2/3 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese

Splash of hot pepper sauce

1 coddled egg

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Serves 4.


Discard the large outer leaves of the romaine, using just the hearts. Wash the romaine hearts and dry them well. Set aside.

Sauté the diced bread and the garlic cloves in 1/4 cup olive oil until golden brown. Don’t allow the garlic to burn. Discard the garlic before adding croutons to the salad.

Separate the lettuce leaves and place them in a large bowl. Add the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil along with the lemon juice, to the romaine. Toss lightly.

Finely chop six anchovy fillets and add them along with the cheese, hot pepper sauce and coddled egg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the croutons and toss. Serve the salad immediately on chilled plates. Garnish each salad with a whole anchovy fillet, if desired.

Note: To coddle, immerse egg in boiling water for one minute.

The Vintage Press Restaurant

216 N. Willis St.

Visalia, CA 93291



Phone: (559) 733-3033

*David Vartanian was named one of America’s Best Chefs, go to: For more information or to make reservations, go to:

For David’s recipes featured in The Armenian Mirror-Spectator Newspaper, see:



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