The La Scala chopped salad originates from the up-scale La Scala restaurant in Beverley Hills. When Britain’s Rick Stein visited the establishment, he filmed in an empty restaurant because La Scala is not the place to go pulling cameras out. The clientele of La Scala, who are the actors, musicians, producers, movers and shakers of Hollywood, go there to have a bit of much needed privacy. Stein was forced to film for ‘Road to Mexico‘ when the restaurant was closed.
Nevertheless, in the Stein interview, we learned that Jean Leon, owner of La Scala, invented the salad in the 1950s for people wishing to make a good impression with film industry leaders. The idea was that the chopped salad could be eaten with one hand, and no part of the dish was likely to get dropped on your shirt. For the home cook, this makes the La Scala chopped salad the perfect buffet food for a party.
Once back in the UK, Stein made his own version of the La Scala salad, and that is where all the problems of authenticity lie – almost every food writer, TV chef and blogger in the world has made “My own super quick version of this classic salad,” and the recipe has become obfuscated and mangled.
La Scala has not actually written the recipe for its salad down anywhere other than the ingredients list on the restaurant menu. The closest we can get is Two Chums, who have reproduced a much vaunted ‘original’ recipe from the Los Angeles Times, (original article not available outside the US) and who have eaten the salad at La Scala itself by way of cross reference. Heidi from FoodieCrush shows how the bean marinade is done. Finally, you can look to The Nosey Chef for the metric measurements and the presentation method needed to nail this Hollywood classic.
The restaurant offers the options of adding ‘toppings’ of tomatoes, cucumbers, turkey or chicken to the standard salad. Other variants on the menu skip the salami and add turkey, tuna or chicken breast. So, feel free to add any one of these to your own chopped salad, still safe in the knowledge you are eating out with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.
La Scala Beverley Hills can be found at 434 N Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, USA.
La Scala chopped salad
- 2 heads of romaine and iceberg lettuce, chopped.
- 100g salami, julienned
- 100g fresh mozzarella, chopped
- 400g garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
- Large black pitted olives (1 to garnish each salad)
- For the dressing:
- 60ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 10g grated Parmesan, grated
Start by making the dressing without the parmesan. Use 2 tbsp of the cheese-free dressing to marinate the beans for 30 mins. Combine the cheese with the rest of the dressing (shake in a jar) and set aside.
Once the beans are marinated, mix all the all the ingredients other than the beans, and toss with the dressing.
Use a small bowl as a mould. Put a portion of the beans into the bottom of the mould bowl, and then add the rest of the salad. Press the salad into the bowl using something like the bottom of a wine bottle. Invert a plate over the top, flip over and turn the salad out onto the plate. Top with a large olive.
It is fair to say that La Scala chops its lettuce way finer than we did for the photo accompanying this recipe. The olive ought to be black.