Home ยป Chopped Italian Salad with Sweet Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Chopped Italian Salad with Sweet Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Lou Malnatis is a Chicago staple that while famous for their pizza, has a delicious salad that in my heart, takes the win! This flavorful salad combines romaine hearts, salty salami and black olives, juicy tomatoes, and a delicious, sweet vinaigrette.


March was a busy month with lots of fun! We had two trips, one at the beginning of the month and one at the end. We just got back this weekend from Florida where we spent 7 sunshine-filled days traveling from beach to beach and returning to our AirBnb to enjoy the pool and hot tub. It was NINE straight days of no alarms and that was most glorious! 

Today was back to the grind of meal prepping and getting ready for the busy week ahead. On the must-make list was yet another batch of this Sweet Red Pepper Vinaigrette from this copycat Lou Maltatis salad recipe. Our first trip of March was to visit my forever bestie where, per usual, we enjoyed carryout pizza and salad from Lou’s. The pizza is GOOD, but the salad is GREAT! I’ve been creating the perfect salad with bold flavor and my own dressing, inspited by the famous Chicago pizzeria. 


  • Copycat Recipe: If you’re a Lou Malnatis fan, chances are you’ve had and loved this salad. Time to enjoy it at home!
  • Quick Meal: This no-cook meal requires minimal prep and is on the table in 20 minutes or less!
  • Main or Side: You choose! This salad has so many delicious ingredients that fully satisfy as a meal, but this salad can easily double as a side salad and serve 8-10 people. 
  • Adaptable: Add or subtract your favorite ingredients to mkae this Italian salad recipe your own!


  • Sugar: Granulaed sugar is best here, but a sugar alcohol or honey could be used instead.
  • Vinegar: While the recipe calls for white wine vinegar, you can use white vinegar or red wine vinegar. 
  • Olive Oil: The primary ingredient of a vinaigrette will be oil. Using a high-quality extra virgin olive oil offers full, rich flavor and is an excellent choice for its antioxidants and monounsaturated fat content. Avocado, sunflower, safflower, or another mild oil will work well, too.
  • Salt and Pepper: This little bit of salt helps cut the acid and brings out the sweetness of the sugar and peppers. Use more or less to your liking, along with a few grinds of black pepper. Salt substittute can be used in place of salt, if preferred.
  • Roasted Red Bell Pepper: These red peppers are charred and the exterior skin removed, leaving behind the tender flesh of the pepper and stored in a brine. You can use peppadew pepper for a similar flavor or sun dried tomatoes for a rich tomato flavored vinaigrette.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Use more, less, or omit. Nutritional yeast can be used for a vegan option.
  • Lettuce: I love a crisp lettuce, such as romaine lettuce hearts, however any mixed greens will work.
  • Salami: I recommend an dry Italian salami versus thinly sliced deli salami. Pepperoni or another meat such as prosciutto or capicolla can be used.
  • Onion: Red onion or sweet yellow onion can be used or omitted altogether.
  • Tomatoes: Any type of tomato works well, I simply prefer grape or cherry tomatoes in salads.
  • Mushrooms: White buttom or cremini mushrooms work great, however feel free to omit or use more or less to your liking.
  • Olives: Feel free to use green olives or kalamata olives as substitutes.
  • Blue Cheese: Instead of blue cheese try goat cheese, feta cheese, or pearled fresh mozzarella cheese (mozzarella balls) as great alternatives.


  • Store leftover vinaigrette in the fridge for up to 7-10 days. Bring to room temperature before shaking and serving.
  • Store the vinaigrette in a small jar with a fitted lid, such as a mason jar, is an easy way to shake right before serving. Any airtight container for storage will suffice, however.
  • Consider doubling the vinaigrette recipe to use as a marinade or to drizzle over roasted veggies. You can also mix it with plain Greek yogurt to make a fun veggie or chip dip!


What other salad ingredients can you recommend to add to this main dish?

There’s so many options! I think garbanzo beans (roasted, crispy chickpeas, even – yum!), artichoke hearts, fresh basil, sliced green bell peppers, and pepperoncini peppers would all top the list in terms of other ingredients to add. 

This is a great salad but it makes a ton! How can I best plan for leftover salad?

​Great question! Dress the salad portion you plan to consume and store all the salad toppings in separate containers so that you can easily assemble and serve smaller portions versus making the one big salad.

Can I use a blender instead of a food processor?

Yes! A blender, food processor, or immersion blender all work well to make this homemade dressing.


  • Gluten-free: This recipe is naturally gluten-free.
  • High-Fiber: WIth nearly 6 grams of fiber per serving, this salad is high in fiber 
  • Easily made vegetarian/vegan by omiting the meat and/or cheeses.
  • Easily made dairy-free by omitting the cheeses

Chopped Italian Salad with Sweet Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Chopped Italian Salad with Sweet Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 entree-sized salads
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Lou Malnatis is a Chicago staple that while famous for their pizza, has a delicious house salad that in my heart, takes the win!



  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 jarred roasted red pepper (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper


  • 2 heads Romaine lettuce, washed and torn/chopped into pieces
  • 6 oz hard salami, sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 1 cup black olives, drained
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) crumbled blue cheese


  1. In a mini food prep or food processor, process the sugar, vinegar, olive oil, and red pepper until smooth. Add the Parmesan cheese and seasonings; pulse until combined.
  2. Place romaine in a large bowl and drizzle with about 2/3rds of the dressing; toss to coat.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and drizzle with remaining dressing; gently toss to coat and serve immediately.


Recipe adapted from Foodtastic Mom

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1/4 recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 515Total Fat: 38.0gCholesterol: 51mgSodium: 1264mgCarbohydrates: 30.5gFiber: 5.8gSugar: 19.5gProtein: 17.3g

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