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The original Caesar Salad recipe is on the South Hill

Caesar salad was never the same for Sage Chaney after she enjoyed the appetizer prepared by the originator, Caesar Cardini, who made a name for himself a century ago in Tijuana.

When asked about local restaurants serving a Caesar, the South Hill resident noted that she’s reluctant to order the dish.

“They’re just adequate around here,” Chaney said. “They’re acceptable, but you can’t compare them with what Ceasar created.”

Cardini was an Italian restaurateur, who made up a salad, which he named after himself, on the fly in his Tijuana restaurant. According to legend and Cardini’s daughter Rosa, Cardini was overwhelmed by the amount of guests at his restaurant in July 1924. Cardini improvised by creating a salad in an entertaining manner.

“Caesar was a charming man, who was an amazing person,” Chaney recalled.

Chaney, 90, who lived in San Diego while her husband, Guy Chaney, 90, served in the Marines during the early to mid-50s, frequently ate at Cardini’s restaurant, Caesar’s.

“He had such a great sense of humor and warmth,” Chaney said, of the chef. “And then there was his salad, which was terrific. I dined at his restaurant about 50 times and he would often wait on me.

“He was wonderful and his salad was like no other.”

Cardini gave Chaney his Caesar recipe, on the back of a business card.

“I watched Caesar prepare the salad, and he always put the lemon juice on the egg,” Chaney said. “That’s how it has to be done.”

However, when Chaney makes the Caesar, the soft-spoken University of Arizona alum claims she never quite nails it like Cardini.

“I can’t make it quite right,” Chaney said.

Chaney believes it’s due to ingredients that are made south of the border.

“I think Caesar used the Mexican bread – pan – and Mexican Parmesan,” Chaney said. “He also prepared it with his unique Italian flair.”

The retired travel agent, who has lived in such exotic locales as Hawaii and Japan, moved to Spokane in 2017 to be around family.

“We live independently, but at a certain age, it’s good to be in the vicinity of your children,” Chaney said. “We’re at that age. We’re enjoying living in Spokane.

Chaney loves to dine out. However, Chaney isn’t likely to order a Caesar or visit an Italian restaurant. Chaney loves Asian and is often chowing down at Fusion Korean Restaurant in Airway Heights.

“I really enjoy it there,” Chaney said. “We love the bulgogi with thinly sliced meat. The people who run the restaurant are kind and have the kind of warmth that reminds me of Caesar Cardini.”

The Missouri native, who grew up in Tuscon, Arizona, and her husband appear to have the same type of demeanor as Cardini. “Hey sweet Sage,” Guy Chaney said as the couple recounted a Cardini story. It’s cute how the pair have been married for 67 years interacts as nonagenarians.

“We enjoy music, recipes and folklore,” Chaney said.

Speaking of folklore, Chaney doesn’t believe all of the stories about who allegedly flocked to Caesar’s during the days of prohibition.

“People did go to Tijuana during those days when America was dry,” Chaney said. “But I don’t think Clark Gable and Jean Harlow went to his restaurant like it was reported. They may or not have been there, but what I do know is that the Caesar salad was invented there and it was such a treat to have it in that restaurant with Caesar preparing it.

“There was nothing like it.”

Caesar Cardini’s Caesar salad recipe


3 medium heads Romaine lettuce, chilled, dry crisp

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Grated Parmesan cheese, 5 or 6 tablespoons

Croutons, about 1 cup


Garlic-flavored salad oil, about ⅓ cup

1-2 tablespoons of wine vinegar

Juice of 1½ lemons

1 raw egg

Freshly ground pepper

Yield: 4 servings

Notes: While the recipe doesn’t come with any directions, the garlic-in-oil mixture should be stored in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or below. Per the USDA, storage time is no longer than seven days due to the risk of botulism. It can be frozen for several months in glass freezer jars or plastic freezer boxes, leaving a half-inch headspace.

The USDA says it is safe to eat pasteurized eggs. As the USDA website puts it: “In-shell pasteurized eggs may be used safely without cooking.” That’s good news if you enjoy foods like Caesar salad, Chaney said.