Chow Town

Wish-Bone Salad Dressing’s Kansas City ties

I took a trip down memory lane this past week when a friend called from Arizona and asked if it was true that Wish-Bone Salad Dressing was started in Kansas City.

I replied that it was indeed invented in Kansas City and dates back to 1945.

Actually there is a lot of history with the Wish-Bone restaurant and salad dressing and how it all began after World War II.

The story of Wish-Bone is really about a soldier. After serving his country in World War II, Philip Sollomi opened the restaurant in Kansas City at 45th and Main Streets, according to the company’s website.

He named the restaurant The Wish-Bone after his signature chicken dish. The restaurants actually was in a big, old, beautiful three-story house and at the time was just elegant and beautiful. The restaurant had fireplaces, antique tables with crystal goblets, shiny silver work and white china.

The restaurants main menu item was a family style fried chicken dinner served with mashed potatoes and green beans but of course, every meal started with the famous Wish-Bone Salad.

The chicken was said to be memorable but people went wild and demanded bottles of the salad dressing to take home.

The restaurant wasn’t an immediate success but in 1948 the Wish-Bone found it’s true calling. That year, Sollomi debuted his mother’s salad dressing recipe brought over from Sicily. Customers fell in love right away. They demanded to bring the dressing home after dining at the restaurant. It was that good.

Who would imagine a simple recipe of olive oil, vinegar and spices becoming part of Kansas City history?

Because demand grew, Sollomi begin mixing the salad dressing in a 50 gallon drum, bottling it up as fast as they could pour it. But not before his mother would slap on it’s unmistakable label: The Kansas City Wish-Bone Famous Italian-Style Dressing.

Word of the salad dressing spread throughout the Heartland and in 1957, Sollomi sold the business to Lipton. His family’s tradition of authentic ingredients and exceptional flavor remain alive as ever.

In 1970, the salad dressing became the number one brand of Italian salad dressing in America, a position it has maintained ever since.

Today, there are more than 50 different types of Wish-Bone salad dressing and more than 100 gallons are bottled every minute at a plant in Independence, where three shifts go 24-hours-seven-days a week to produce the salad dressings. All in all, the factory ships out over 25 million cases a year.

I wonder what Phil Sollimi and his mother would think if they were alive today? Talk about a Kansas City success story.

For some odd reason, I have the Wish-Bone fried chicken dinner on my mind. Go figure.

I have been searching for a recipe to duplicate it and hopefully I will find it, but in the meantime, I’ll just go buy a bottle of the signature Wish-Bone Italian salad dressing and enjoy some poured over crispy iceberg lettuce and relive a little bit of Kansas City history.

You can also be proud to answer your friends questions now when they ask you where Wish-Bone Salad Dressing began.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM and sells a line of dressings and sauces.