But it doesn't have to be this way. Michael Chiarello, whom we sort of adore, gets it right with this recipe from NapaStyle: the hearts of romaine are left as whole leaves, adorned with a couple of thin parmesan toasts that you break up yourself into delightful organic shapes. We haven't tried his dressing recipe, so we can't vouch for that, but if he's taken the time to get the presentation right, his dressing is probably closer to good than most examples of the form you're likely to come across.

And if you don't feel like making it yourself, we'd like to direct you to the one restaurant we know of that gets it 100% right, every single time we go there: Caffe Venezia, on University Ave. in Berkeley.

Have any favorites? Leave 'em in the comments.

Image of Caesar salad from NapaStyle