Old School House Salad

Old School House Salad, Italian Dressing

Old School House Salad

Iceberg Lettuce, Tomato Wedges, Cucumber
Red Onion, Radish, Italian Dressing

When I was contemplating the ingredients for my Old School House Salad, the kind my mom served in the 60s and early 70s, there could only be one type of lettuce, Iceberg. Nice and crisp Iceberg ✅. Apparently iceberg aka crisphead, shipped on ice, was the only variety of lettuce that traveled well via train across the country back then. Especially from California to Chicago…

Cucumber ✅ Red Onion ✅ Radish ✅. And when it came to tomatoes, we always had tomato wedges in our salad. But curiously enough, nary a cherry tomato in sight back then. Turns out, cherry tomatoes did not become ubiquitous until the 1980s.  Our tomatoes were medium-sized, red, round, and tasty. Tomato Wedges ✅. And I do recall that my dad liked Peperoncini ✅.

Italian dressing came in a bottle, made by Wish-Bone. It sat in the center of the dinner table along with bottles of Thousand Island, French, and Russian so everyone could dress their own salad their way. No Ranch though, Ranch dressing didn’t become popular until the early 1990s. Hidden Valley Ranch was first marketed as an herb & spice packet to mix with mayonnaise and buttermilk at home. It wasn’t even sold as a bottled dressing until 1983.

Also absent from our house salad – carrots, celery, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, olives – and I don’t think we ever had an avocado in our Chicago home until the early 70s when we “discovered” Mexican food. We did eat a lot of black olives though, they were served on a relish tray, not in the salad.

Old School House Salad Recipe

Old School House Salad, Italian Dressing

Italian Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 t. dried oregano
  • 1/2 c. good tasting olive oil
  • 1/4 c. white wine vinegar
  • 3 T. mayonnaise
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Grind dried oregano in a mortar with pestle to help release the natural oils and flavors.

Place all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Shake well before serving.

This snappy dressing adapted from Bon Appétit, is just slightly sweet from the sugar and slightly creamy from the mayonnaise, pale green in color, with notes of oregano and garlic. It fortunately doesn’t taste anything like bottled Wish-Bone.


  • one head of iceberg lettuce, leaves hand-torn
  • red onion, sliced super-thin
  • radish, sliced thin
  • cucumber, sliced thin
  • tomato, sliced into wedges
  • peperoncini


  • Italian blue cheese (gorgonzola), crumbled
  • homemade croutons, here

Old School House Salad

To Plate:

Arrange torn iceberg leaves in a salad bowl. Arrange red onion, radish, cucumber, peperoncini, and tomato wedges on top. Generously pour Italian dressing over the salad. Salt and black pepper to taste.

While blue cheese and homemade croutons were not a part of our original House Salad, they make great additions today. Add blue cheese and croutons after pouring on the dressing.

Old School House Salad

7 thoughts on “Old School House Salad”

  1. I am laughing at this. So true!!! Minus the onions I would scarf that up. Will try your dressing recipe as I am trying to not use the bottled types. It used to be my job to make the balsamic dressing. And I forgot how. Now every time I make it – it is horrible! Too much oil I think.

    1. Hi Berta! Some fun food memories! I like this Italian Dressing, I wouldn’t normally put sugar in a dressing, but this one has a nostalgic taste, and it works!

  2. Brought back memories of living in Chicago where I was raised. The relish tray and this type of salad. It is delicious. I don’t buy salad dressing anymore as it is so easy to make, and no preservatives in it.

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