This delicious salad is my take on the iconic Leon salad served at LaScala’s restaurant in Beverly Hills. While on a business trip to Newport Beach, I had to make a pilgrimage to the LaScala Boutique restaurant and have one for myself. All I can say is it was Nirvana in my mouth. So when I found an old copy of an LA Times article with the recipe, I could not wait to get home and try it. It was a seriously long week out there dreaming of another of these salads.
WHAT IS AN ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD-LA SCALA STYLE?
This salad has cool, crunchy lettuce, a creaminess from the chickpeas, little salty bits from the salami and cheese, and a sharp tang from the dressing. What’s not to love about this salad? Plus, it’s so simple with endless ways to customize it. I love the clean and simple flavors and I love that everything is chopped to a uniform size.
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THIS SALAD?
The classic LaScala salad was created by Chef Leon in the 1950s at his famous restaurant. He claimed that he introduced the dish because it was perfect for the celebrities who frequently lunched or dined there and who needed something that was light and healthy, yet satisfying.
His daughter, Gigi Leon, the current owner of LaScala, claims that those same celebrities would complain that the original salad was too hard to eat, so her father came up with chopping the lettuces, salami, and cheese together into tiny bits. This allowed his clientele to have their healthy salad, be photographed looking fabulous, and still fit into their gowns.
It is rumored that this salad was a favorite of Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, Jr., and Leonardo DiCaprio.
The original LaScala Chopped Salad used iceberg lettuce that was chopped together with the salami and mozzarella cheese into very small pieces. It was then mounded onto the plate and topped with marinated chickpeas.
HOW IS THIS RECIPE DIFFERENT FROM THE ORIGINAL?
For my Italian Chopped Salad – LaScala Style, I did not chop the greens quite so small. While the original is very easy to eat and shovel into my mouth, the tiny pieces felt almost pre-masticated. I like slightly bigger pieces. I also liked the texture variation of romaine and bibb lettuce.
Also, Chef Leon’s dressing had a bit of a lemony note to it. For my version, I wanted more of a classic red wine vinaigrette. For the salami, all I could think about were the amazing Jersey boardwalk Italian hoagies that I adored in childhood. So, I had to incorporate chopped, pickled banana peppers, red onion, and lots of oregano. Oh, Jersey Shore Italian hoagies! My mouth waters just thinking about them.
Can’t you just imagine this salad being served to one of the elegantly dressed ‘Real Housewives of wherever’ just before they started to sling insults, wine glasses, or tables at each other?
This salad will make you want to put on a gorgeous dress, don some eyelash and hair extensions, pour a healthy glass of “champs” and dig in. If you too are a reality tv junkie, you will understand that reference. If you aren’t, well I don’t know what to say other than I’m sorry and why aren’t you?Print
My version of the iconic classic chopped salad from LaScala Restaurant. Cool, crisp lettuce, spicy salami, mozzarella, marinated chickpeas, and tangy dressing make this easy dish a light lunch or perfect first course at dinner.
For the dressing:
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons juice from a jar of pickled banana peppers
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced and mashed with 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
For the salad:
- 2 tablespoons minced pickled banana peppers
- 2 tablespoons minced red onion
- 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 4 ounces Italian salami, julienned
- 8 cups torn lettuce leaves-such as romaine and bibb
- 4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 ounces shredded parmesan cheese
- grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
- Make the dressing. In a jar, add the olive oil, vinegar, garlic/salt paste, juice from the pickled banana peppers, dry mustard, thyme, oregano, and black pepper. Shake well and set aside.
- In a small bowl, add the drained chickpeas, minced red onions and 2-3 tablespoons of the dressing. Stir to mix well. Cover and chill at least one hour.
- In another small bowl, add the julienned salami, minced banana peppers and another 2 tablespoons of dressing. Cover this bowl as well and chill for an hour.
- Finely chop the lettuce leaves and add to a large bowl. Pour about half of the remaining dressing and toss the leaves until well coated. Do not over dress the leaves. Add in the cheeses and tomatoes, if using. Toss to combine.
- Divide the salad among four serving plates. Top with the marinated chickpeas and salami.
- Serve cold.
*This is a variation of the LA Times printed recipe for LaScala’s Chopped Salad.
- Serving Size: 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side salad
Love this salad and looking for more? Here are a few recipes you may like: