I’ve Finally Nailed the Perfect Green Salad, Thanks to Via Carota in NYC

Keep it simple.

By Camille Styles
best simple green salad recipe inspired by via carota's insalata verde

Earlier this week, I watched an interview with legendary music producer Rick Rubin. In it, he described himself as more of a “reducer” than a producer. When he’s in the studio, his aim is to strip the music down, “just to see what’s actually necessary. Getting it down to that essence is really helpful in understanding what it is.” His words resonated with my own pull toward simplicity this yea. Whether it’s editing a story, styling a room, or creating a recipe—getting down to the essence of anything requires a commitment to dig deep. You can’t dial it in when something is made up of just a few parts. Each one has to be necessary and it has to be great. One shining example of this approach is the simple green salad at beloved NYC restaurant Via Carota. If you know, you know.

Walking into Via Carota is like entering a friend’s home in the Italian countryside. (The fantasy version.) You’re greeted by exposed brick walls, charming antiques, rustic plates of shared pasta, and a cluster of people waiting for a table. If you look closely, you’ll notice a plethora of towering green salads on the center of tables, with artfully arranged layers of ruffly Bibb, little gem, and frisée lettuces tossed with a shallot vinaigrette. It’s striking in its simplicity, yet looks and tastes undeniably special. Those who frequent Via Carota know not to miss ordering what is truly the best simple green salad on the planet.

Woman chopping salad greens.

How to Make the Perfect Simple Green Salad

I’ve been slowly perfecting my own version of the perfect simple green salad. It’s inspired by Via Carota’s but with a few twists that make it my own. I’ve landed on our family’s favorite that I’ve been making nightly, tossing whatever mixed lettuces we have in the fridge together, then stacking them in my perfect wood salad bowl. We’ve started calling it our “house salad,” and each Sunday, I blend up a batch of our house vinaigrette and pour it into a mason jar so I have it at the ready for salads all week.

Simple green salad ingredients.
Simple green salad romaine hearts.

The Gathering Board

An all-in-one cutting board, serving board, and stylish display object for the kitchen counter. A substantial 1″ thickness gives these boards an heirloom quality and supreme durability.

What makes this salad different from Via Carota’s Insalata Verde?

Although the simplicity and overall flavors of this salad are inspired by the one at Via Carota, this isn’t a copycat version. If you want the exact recipe, grab their cookbook and enjoy. As authors Jody Williams and Rita Sodi say, “We are devoted to this salad. We eat it every day. We crave it, and it’s at our dinner table nightly. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter.”

I used their recipe as a jumping off point and made a few changes based on my own leanings.

Simple green salad recipe.

The Mixed Lettuces

In Via Carota’s version, butter lettuce, frisée, little gem, watercress, and endive are tossed together. But it can be tricky to find little gem, and I’ve realized that a great substitution is to use the hearts (the inner leaves) of romaine, chopped into 3” lengths. I also don’t love buying tiny $5 heads of endive on the regular, so my version omits those and instead keeps it to three types of lettuces:

  • Butter lettuce (often labeled Bibb or Boston lettuce)
  • Romaine lettuce (inner leaves only)
  • Arugula for its peppery kick.

However, the beauty of having your own “house salad” is that you can sub in whatever mixed lettuces you have in your produce drawer. Add radicchio, baby spinach, iceberg lettuce, or red leaf lettuce! I’d stay away from kale and other cruciferous greens for this one since we want the end result to be light and airy.

I’ve also take some liberty with the fresh herbs used, which give this salad its intriguing, can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it specialness. I like to use mint and chives in this salad, but the sky’s the limit. You just want your herbs to be of the fresh variety (not woody), which means that cilantro, parsley, dill, and basil are all fair game. Rosemary, thyme, and sage are not. (See our handy guide to keeping herbs fresh in the refrigerator.)

The Salad Dressing

I’ve shared my Sunday night vinaigrette in our Breathing Space newsletter, but I think this is the first time I’ve posted it here on the site. Get excited, because it’s my favorite dressing in the world. It shares the shallot-forward flavors of Via Carota’s vinaigrette but adds Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and honey. I truly don’t think it could be better.

Best simple green salad.

The Walnuts

Okay, here’s where I took some real liberties—Via Carota’s green salad has absolutely no nuts whatsoever. No breadcrumbs, no seeds, no accoutrements. But for a salad to earn its “best green salad” standing in our house, I needed to add a touch of crunch in the form of toasty, buttery, finely chopped walnuts that play so perfectly against the freshness of all those greens. If you’re now protesting that I’ve dramatically diverged from the original, you’re right—and you can leave them out. But I don’t recommend it (hehe).

Simple green salad dressing.
Tossing best simple green salad.

Tips for Making the Best Simple Green Salad

Roll up your sleeves and prepare to use your hands—here are a few tips for success to nail the perfect green salad every time.

Dry Your Lettuces Completely

The Via Carota recipe calls for a double wash and extensive drying regimen. Great for a restaurant setup, but I’m giving you permission to wash your lettuces once, then dry them in a salad spinner or in paper towels at home. The key is to make sure they’re completely and totally dry. I like to wrap them up in a clean dishtowel while I’m prepping other ingredients to make sure they’re good to go. The reason for this is that we want the vinaigrette to lightly coat each leaf of lettuce. Since water and oil don’t mix, dryness is key before drizzling with the olive oil and vinegar based dressing.

Use Your Biggest Bowl for Tossing

I wouldn’t ask you to use two bowls unless it was absolutely necessary—I detest washing dishes and avoid dirtying extra dishes at all cost. However, here it’s a must. Use the biggest mixing bowl you own to add all your lettuces. You’ll use way more than you think you’ll need because they shrink down when coated with vinaigrette. Toss them thoroughly in this mixing bowl, then get out your handmade wood salad bowl and transfer by the handful, stacking up each bunch of lettuces into a ruffly tower.

Use Your Hands

Pull up your sleeves and use those hands to toss together the lettuces and herbs with the vinaigrette, plus the salt and liberal amounts of freshly ground black pepper. Trust me, you cannot get the same effect using tongs or spoons. You’re massaging the dressing and seasonings into the lettuce so that it barely coats each leaf and everything is evenly distributed.

Best simple green salad recipe.

Toss It With Dressing Right Before Serving

Although you can prep your lettuce in advance—wash, dry, and put in a big mixing bowl in the fridge—you’ll want to wait until right before serving to toss it with the vinaigrette and top with your walnuts. That way, your salad stays fresh, perky, and not at all soggy.

Tossing simple green salad recipe.

Optional Ingredients

One of the beautiful things about having a standby simple green salad recipe is that you can riff off the original and adapt it to be a first course or perfect side dish to whatever you’re making. Some of my favorite add-ins based on my mood are:

  • Freshly shaved Parmesan
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  • Finely chopped and toasted almonds, pecans, or sunflower seeds (in place of the walnuts)
  • Crumbled goat cheese or feta
  • Green olives (I like to use pitted and halved Castelvetrano olives)
  • Thinly sliced red onion
  • Shaved fennel
  • Grated carrots
  • Thinly sliced cucumber
Simple green salad recipe.

Handcrafted Wood Salad Bowl

Handmade in Michigan, these are heirloom-quality bowls that are made for sharing good food with great friends. The 12″ is sized for 2 – 4 people, while the 17″ is made for larger groups.

Individual Wood Salad Bowls, Set of 4

The perfect pairing for our larger wood serving bowls, these heirloom-quality bowls are made of solid beechwood with a light walnut finish that lets the unique wood grain shine.


Be sure to rate and leave a comment, and tag us on Instagram so we can see your perfect simple green salad.

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Best simple green salad recipe.

The Best Simple Green Salad

  • Author: Camille Styles


This simple green salad is a staple on my dinner table. Inspired by the famous salad at Via Carota, it’s healthy, delicious, and the perfect side dish.


Units Scale
  • 8 handfuls mixed lettuces (the more the merrier—bibb, romaine hearts, and arugula is my jam, but do what you love)
  • 1 cup mixed fresh herbs (mint and chives get my vote)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Very finely chopped toasted walnuts

Camille’s Shallot Vinaigrette

  • 1 shallot, peeled and halved
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • Squeeze of honey
  • big pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Add all the vinaigrette ingredients to a blender. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a mason jar.
  2. Wash and dry your lettuces, then wrap up in a towel to remove all moisture.
  3. Drizzle 3 tablespoons vinaigrette into a very large mixing bowl, coating sides and bottom of bowl. Add greens and herbs, season with salt and pepper, then use your hands to fold greens until coated with vinaigrette. Drizzle more if needed.
  4. Mound salad into a towering pile in your 12” wood salad bowl, sprinkle with the toasted walnuts and a final pinch of salt and pepper. Eat!

Comments (4)

  1. Sara Barton says:

    I made this tonight and my husband, who is notorious for drowning his salad in bottle Italian, loved it! Tonight’s herbs were dill and chives.

  2. Lindsay Sterling says:

    What size shallot do you typically use? I made this tonight for the first time and my shallot must have been too big, because this was so oniony that my eyes started to cry while eating the salad in the way they do when I’m chopping onions. As for my onion breath…. I will not be able to kiss my husband for a week. ? I’m going to try to salvage the rest by adding another serving of all the ingredients except for the shallot, in hopes that it becomes more balanced. This is not meant to be a criticism of your recipe. I’m sure it’s delicious when you don’t use a giant shallot!

    1. Casey McKee says:

      Hi! This recipe is well-suited for 1 small shallot or 1/2 large challot!

  3. Karin Pereira says:

    To be honest, meaning full well, you mixed up the whole restaurant salad experience adding or changing it. Let the salad be for us, Vila Carotta, its perfect. (experienced the real thing)

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