A typical Caesar salad comprises romaine lettuce and croutons dressed with Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper originally prepared tableside. Caesar Cardini (Italian-born Mexican) is credited with creating the salad.
Another story tells that as a Chef of Hotel Peñafiel in Tehuacán, Puebla, México, Alex Cardini, son of an Italian immigrant, made the Caesar Salad specially for a gourmet contest in Tijuana, winning first place with his innovative dish.
Also, people believe that the salad was created for a group of Hollywood stars after a long weekend party, and still another, that Cardini's brother Alex created it as "Aviator's salad" for a bunch of San Diego aviator comrades who were in a hurry, and the dish was renamed later, when Alex was a partner of his brother. A few fellows among Cardini's personnel also claimed the authorship, but without success.
As an historical addendum, the salad recipe was created at a place operated by Cardini on the ground floor of the Hotel Comercial at the corner of 2nd Street and Main, Tijuana. In 1929-1930, Cardini moved his restaurant to the newly constructed Hotel Caesar on Main St., nowadays Avenida Revolución, near the corner of 5th St. The Hotel Comercial is long-gone, but the historic "Comercial" building still stands at the same location, and the Hotel Caesar's continues to operate to this day. The restaurant closed in 1993, but after a renovation in the late 1990s, the bar in the hotel began preparing table-side "ensalada Caesar per tradition" and claims to serve the "original Caesar salad".
In the book From Julia Child's Kitchen, Julia Child describes how she ate a Caesar's salad at Cardini's restaurant when she was a child in 1920s, and some 50 years later she sought out and called Cardini's daughter, in order to discover the original recipe. In this recipe, lettuce leaves are served whole on the plate, because they are meant to be lifted by the stem and eaten with the fingers. It also calls for coddled eggs and Italian olive oil.
The Cardini family trademarked the original recipe in 1948, and more than a dozen of bottled Cardini's dressing varieties are available today. Many other bottled versions are sold, too. Some recipes include one or more of mustard, avocado, tomato, bacon bits, or garlic cloves. Rochelle Low is credited with the creation of the "nouveau-Caesar" style by adding the hotly contested ingredient of anchovies to the dressing recipe. This style is commonly found in fancy restaurants, often to the surprise of customers, with the anchovies served on the side. Cardini's Brand original Caesar dressing is somewhat different from Rosa's version in order to serve today's customer's and manufacturer's needs.
Today, there are many variations. Many restaurants offer a more substantial salad by topping a Caesar salad with grilled chicken, steak, salmon or shrimp. Certain Mexican restaurants even improvise on items such as substituting tortilla strips for croutons and Cotija cheese for the Parmesan, or the addition of tomatoes in the Letchworth salad.
Some people are concerned about the safety of Caesar salads due to the potential risk of infection by salmonella bacteria occasionally found in raw eggs. This is a concern with many similar dressings like mayonnaise, though generally the pH level is thought to be acidic enough to kill those bacteria. Nevertheless, later versions of the recipe call at least for briefly-cooked coddled eggs or pasteurized eggs. Today, many recipes even omit the egg and produce a "Caesar vinaigrette". Yogurt is sometimes substituted for the eggs to maintain a creamy texture. However, purists disdain these alternatives which do not use raw eggs, as "not being true Caesar's salads".