This Italian restaurant salad is an exact replica of the classic you’ve experienced when out for dinner or on that hoagie from your neighborhood Italian deli that you never thought you could recreate at home.

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Why Our Testers Loved This

Our testers were delighted with this classic Italian salad that pairs crunchy iceberg lettuce with creamy dressing. They loved that the salad and dressing were both easy to make, and that there were “just the right amount of add-ins.”

What You’ll Need to Make This

Ingredients for Italian salad -- lettuce, tomatoes, celery, Parmesan, dressing, onion, olives, and pepperoncini.
  • Creamy Italian dressing–You could also substitute a basic vinaigrette, or store-bought dressing, if you prefer.
  • Iceberg lettuce–The high water content of iceberg makes it crispy and crunchy and is the perfect vehicle for the creamy Italian dressing. For the classic Italian salad experience, we don’t recommend substituting a different type of lettuce.
  • Red onion–If you prefer a milder flavor from your red onion, soak the sliced onion in cold water for 5 to 10 minutes before draining and adding to the salad.
  • Pepperoncini–Blot these peppers dry with a paper towel before adding them to the salad.

How to Make This Recipe

A bowl with salad dressing and serving utensils and another photo of the bowl filled with Italian salad ingredients.
  1. Pour the dressing into a large bowl.
  2. Add the salad ingredients and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Common Questions

How do you smash olives?

Use a shot glass or the bottom of a small drinking glass and press down on the olive until it splits in a few places. If your olive has a pit, it should slip out easily after smashing.

Can I make this in advance?

You can prepare the dressing up to 1 day in advance and you can wash and chop your lettuce a few hours before serving. Store them separately in the refrigerator. Don’t assemble the finished salad until right before serving as the lettuce will become soggy as it sits.

What should I serve this with?

Classic Italian American fare is perfect here. This salad is great alongside lasagna and breadsticks.

Helpful Tips

  • Prepare your dressing in a lidded jar so that you can shake it to recombine the ingredients just before assembling your salad.
  • This recipe is suitable for vegetarian and gluten-free diets.
Two white plates of Italian salad made with iceberg, tomatoes, red onion, and Parmesan.

More Great Salad Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

Two white plates of Italian restaurant salad made with iceberg, tomatoes, red onion, and Parmesan.

Italian Salad

4.86 / 7 votes
This Italian salad, made with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, olives, pepperoncini, Parmesan, and a creamy vinaigrette dressing, is just like the one at your favorite Italian restaurant. Actually, it’s better.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories138 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • 1 recipe Creamy Italian Salad Dressing
  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup smashed Sicilian green olives, pitted
  • 8 pepperoncini
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler (1 cup)


  • Pour the creamy Italian salad dressing into a large serving bowl.
  • Add the lettuce, celery, onion, cherry tomatoes, olives, pepperoncini, and Parmesan, and toss to combine.
  • Serve immediately.


  1. Get ahead–Prepare the salad dressing up to 1 day in advance and wash and chop or tear the lettuce several hours before serving. Store separately in the refrigerator.
  2. Dressing container–Prepare your dressing in a lidded jar so that you can shake it to recombine the ingredients just before assembling your salad.
  3. Dietary–This recipe is suitable for vegetarian and gluten-free diets.
Lasagna Cookbook

Adapted From


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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 138 kcalCarbohydrates: 9 gProtein: 5 gFat: 10 gSaturated Fat: 3 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gTrans Fat: 0.02 gCholesterol: 6 mgSodium: 544 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 6 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2019 Anna Hezel. Photos © 2019 David Leite. Photo © 2019 Dylan James Ho & Jeni Afuso. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

The mix of oils, the dry oregano, the red wine vinegar, the mayonnaise for emulsification—these are all keys to recreating a classic Italian restaurant dressing. It took me back not only to salads of my youth but also to the dressing on an Italian hoagie. The crunch of iceberg, the old standard that’s been spurned for more cosmopolitan greens, holds up to this robust vinaigrette like a dancer reunited with an old partner.

I had only one quibble with the Italian salad recipe and that was that the amount of chopped lettuce was too much for my largest bowl. I had to serve some of the salad onto plates before being able to incorporate the last of the lettuce into the bowl.

Sometimes I forget how much I actually enjoy the unrefined, watery crunch of iceberg lettuce! This is a great basic old-school style salad for when you’re craving a punch of flavor.

I grew up in NJ and it tastes exactly like something we would have gotten at Patsy’s Tavern in Patterson. I figured my basic-eater kids and husband would be all over this, and I was right!

The 1 teaspoon salt that I used to make the garlic paste was sufficient for a good level of seasoning for the end result—it didn’t really need more.

Hello Olive Garden Salad?! This was a perfect Italian restaurant salad with nice crunch mixed with a good creamy dressing. Serving the salad premixed with the dressing means it should be consumed in one day (leftovers would be soggy) but that’s not a problem since it’s quite delicious.

Be sure to serve this with some nice breadsticks or garlic bread.

Everyone at the table raved about the Italian salad! It was nice and crunchy with just the right amount of add-ins. The dressing is delicious and so easy to make with ingredients you always have on hand. I definitely needed a double batch.

I washed, dried, and chopped my lettuce and let it chill for about 3 hours before serving. Iceberg lettuce got some new respect!

As I read thru the ingredients, this almost read like the salad my grandfather would make nightly, but the addition of mayonnaise takes it to a creamy direction and gave me a good prompt to buy iceberg lettuce.

I admit, iceberg falls out of rotation, yet I grew up with it, and this is a reason beyond wedge salad to bring it back. The ingredients are easily available year round, and mostly are pantry items.

If you taste the dressing before adding the lettuce, it might seem like it has quite a bite, but the sweetness of iceberg lettuce and the addition of the generous Parmesan make it all come together into a comforting, tangy accord.

It only takes a few minutes to smash the olives and pit them, gently pressing down with a shot glass, and breaking them apart. If your dry oregano is on the stem, it takes about 3 generous stems, rubbing the leaves off. I blotted the pepperoncini and olives on a paper towel.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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4.86 from 7 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    You must have really good Italian restaurants where you live because this salad is first class. The addition of the peppers and green olives really boosts the flavour. We only used about half of the dressing but it was good too.

  2. 5 stars
    I make a salad similar to this and I am looking forward to improving it with this recipe. One tip for the onions (and maybe the celery), use a mandoline to get really thin slices.