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A Caesar without garlicky, crunchy croutons isn’t a Caesar at all. (Photo credit: Doug Young)

Few classic dishes have an actual birthday. While America celebrated its Independence Day last Thursday (through what seemed an extremely long weekend of firecracker explosions), a menu staple celebrated its 100th birthday, too.

As the story goes, Caesar’s restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, was prevalent during prohibition. On July 4, 1924, dining revelers overwhelmed the kitchen, which became short on ingredients except for a few pantry staples, including olive oil, Parmesan cheese, an egg, Worcestershire and lettuce. The owner, Caesar Cardini (or perhaps his brother), scraped all the ingredients into a large wooden bowl tableside, and Caesar salad was born! The dish has evolved into what is now known as the classic Caesar salad.

Traditionally prepared with crisp romaine lettuce and garlicky croutons, variations of the salad can be found throughout the Hamptons, including a Tuscan kale version at Moby’s in Amagansett or prepared with shaved Brussels sprouts at Almond in Bridgehampton.

And while variations on the theme abound, one non-negotiable ingredient used in a good Caesar dressing? Anchovies-or-anchovy paste. Jason Weiner, Almond’s executive chef, even insists on plating his version of Brussels Caesar with thin filets of Spanish white anchovies to ensure you are not missing out on the crucial ingredient.

There are many recipes for this creamy, egg-y dressing, but if you’re a little intimidated (or short on time) consider a high-quality short-cut. Bottled versions of the dressing abound, but not too many can claim to be a secret 75-year-old family recipe from an iconic Southampton establishment, Paul’s Italian Restaurant.

The Hampton’s Dressing Co.’s Caesar dressing is a family recipe. (Photo credit: Doug Young)

“Our father, Paul DeRobertis, grew up immersed in the restaurant industry before joining the armed services,” says his son, Evan DeRobertis, of The Hampton’s Dressing Co. “After returning from overseas, he worked alongside his stepfather and mother, learning the ins and outs of the business with their guidance.”

Many of these handed-down recipes appeared on the menu at the family-owned business on Hill St. for over 50 years. Patron’s favorites were Paul’s house dressing and his parents’ Caesar dressing.

“In 1995, my father introduced the chicken Caesar salad to the menu, and its popularity led him to start bottling the dressings for his customers,” recounts DeRobertis. After Paul decided to sell the restaurant in May 2023, his sons and grandsons continued to honor their family’s legacy of homemade recipes and fine foods.

“We always knew our Caesar dressing was the main attraction at Paul’s,” he says. “People would regularly come in to fill bottles at the restaurant, and when it was no longer available, they reached out to us, eager to know where to buy it.”

Deciding to market the dressings exclusively (including Paul’s original blue cheese dressing,) The Hampton’s Dressing Co. products are now widely available throughout the East End (Halsey Farm, Cromers, and Hampton Eats, to name a few) or through their website. “Many asked for the Caesar dressing recipe, but that’s a family secret we plan to keep,” insists DeRobertis. “It will continue to be passed down to future generations, just as it was to us.”

But there are other ways to add a signature special touch to your Caesar. Consider the hand-torn, housemade crouton.

A few tips: Start with bread that has a crusty outside and ample alveoli — the air pockets that form inside the bread (try the exceptional sourdough boule from 1610 available at Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island and the Easport General Store). Tear the bread into one or two inches of irregular pieces for best results. When transferring to a rimmed baking sheet, leave plenty of space between each piece for airflow and crisp edges. Keep an eye on your croutons in the oven, as bread burns quickly.

Pick the youngest, crunchiest romaine heads you can find. Keep them crisp, before and after cleaning, in the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer.

Parmesan is equally important, but an excellent quality Grana Pandano works similarly in a pinch. Just ask Lidia!

While some may say bottled dressing is cutting corners, it can also be a great help when entertaining, and with a bit of homemade doctoring, you can create a salad worth celebrating! But please, no more firecrackers.

Garlicky sourdough croutons

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Serves 8 servings


  • 4 cups 3/4-inch torn bread pieces from a sturdy loaf, like sourdough
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp Italian parsley, minced
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated


  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Place the bread pieces in a large bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil with the garlic over medium-high heat until the garlic turns golden and becomes fragrant. This should take about 4-5 minutes. Make sure the garlic does not burn or it will taste bitter. Remove the garlic cloves from the oil by straining or picking them out and discarding or saving for another use.
  • Drizzle the garlic oil over the bread crumbs and toss to coat. Add 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, toss again and season with salt and pepper.
  • Arrange without overlapping on a baking sheet with a rim. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring and flipping them occasionally.
  • Remove from oven and return to the bowl, tossing again with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and the parsley. Allow to cool.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.