La Scala has been a fixture of show business and high society in Los Angeles since Jean Leon opened his Beverly Hills restaurant in 1956, serving celebrities like Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s. In fact, it was Jean who delivered Monroe’s final dinner the evening she died.
Six decades later, Jean's daughter, Gigi Leon, is at the helm of the Beverly Hills eatery, which continues to serve elevated Italian food to stars as prominent as Kim Kardashian. And online, the LA institution is having a bit of a resurgence as TikTokkers embrace a classic La Scala recipe and invention: the chopped salad.
Where Did Chopped Salads Come From?
In an interview with Bon Appetit, Gigi explains that her father invented the easy-to-eat salad after his tuxedoed and gowned patrons complained that normal salads were “messy and hard to eat.” So Jean did what chefs do and came up with La Scala’s Italian-style chopped salad, a medley of lettuce, salami, cheese, and garbanzo beans, dressed with a vinaigrette. (While Leon may not have been the first to chop the ingredients of a salad and toss them together, he is said to be the first to put the words "chopped salad" on a menu.)
Where Is the Chopped Salad Trending?
Evidence that Kardashian and Justin Bieber are fans of La Scala’s chopped salad is scant, but the rumor has stuck on the internet, where copycat recipes have taken off in the past two months.
The amateur chef and food blogger @katcancook’s TikTok video recipe of La Scala’s chopped salad has 5.8 million views. A similar clip from @broccyourbody — which mentions Bieber and Kardashian — has racked up 1.5 million on the platform.
“I've been eating this EVERY SINGLE DAY for a week now,” Asia Breanne Pennywe commented on @broccyourbody’s recipe clip.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint why La Scala’s chopped salad is trending decades after Jean introduced it to the world, there’s a clear appetite for them on TikTok. On the short-form video platform, #choppedsalad has more than 61 million views, and Google searches for “chopped salads” have grown significantly since fall 2021.
Before La Scala’s chopped salad it was @bakedbymelissa’s vegan green goddess recipe that went viral in September 2021 with 22 million views, leading to an appearance on the Today Show and dozens of copycat videos.
@bakedbymelissa She’s a green goddess #food #recipe #vegan #foodie #viral #asmr #fy #fypシ ♬ original sound - Baked by Melissa
Why Are Chopped Salads Popular?
Like Jean’s creation, Melissa Ben-Ishay’s salad is healthy, easy to make, and cheap — all traits which might explain the chopped salad craze.
In an interview with Bon Appetit, chef Nancy Silverton describes La Scala’s chopped salad as “addicting.”
“You were able to get a perfect, well-distributed bite in every forkful,” she said of the salad. “It was the first time I understood the importance of a restaurant having something that is craveable — something that brought you back.”
If you make it to the birthplace of the chopped salad in Beverly Hills, be prepared to pay top dollar. While the salad itself is just $12.50 for lunch, a full meal for two could easily cost upward of $80.
Luckily, we’ve found Jean’s recipe in a Los Angeles Times article from the ‘80s so you can try La Scala’s original chopped salad at home.
How Do You Make La Scala's Chopped Salad?
In 1989, the Times published a collection of LA's most prominent dishes and their recipes, including La Scala's famous chopped salad, which Jean himself provided to the publication. We've printed the recipe below. The salad serves six.
- 1 head iceberg lettuce
- 1 head Romaine
- 1/4 pound Italian salami
- 1/4 pound mozzarella cheese
- 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can garbanzo beans
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Combine finely chopped lettuce, salami, and cheese with drained garbanzo beans. Toss with vinaigrette.