"I went to Keith and said, ‘Did you see that?’” Kinney said. “And he said, 'I can make that.'"

Watson said he was trained in the Marconi's tradition by the restaurant's longtime chef, Tony Sartori, who retired in 1999. "It has never been changed," Watson said. "That's the thing."

Kinney said he put in a call to Angelos, a regular Capital Grille customer, to get an OK to serve the chopped salad. Kinney remembers the phone call. When Angelos asked Kinney why he wanted to feature the chopped salad, Kinney told him, "Keith is here and Keith wants to do it."

Angelos replied, "If Keith wants to do it, he can do it."

It's not entirely clear whether Kinney needed Angelos' permission. Angelos, who did not return calls for this story, had trademarks for both “Marconi's” and “Marconi's Chocolate Sauce,” but both of those trademarks were canceled in 2012. (The attorney who handled those trademarks, Jeffrey J. Utermohle, declined to comment on why the trademarks were not renewed. However, generally, trademarks that fall into disuse are difficult to renew.)

But if one of Capital Grille’s competitor’s decided to start serving a “Marconi’s” salad, either Angelos or Capital Grille could argue they have the sole right to the name.

"Trademark case law holds that when there are competing claims to use an abandoned trademark, the matter is decided by determining which new company first used the abandoned mark in a commercially meaningful way," said Stephen J. Reichert, a private attorney whose office specializes in copyright and trademark matters but who is not involved with the Marconi’s issue.

Trademark law aside, Kinney said that he wanted Angelos' OK regardless of whether it was his to legally give.

"He's a guest at my restaurant," Kinney said. "It was 100 percent a courtesy. If he had said no, I wouldn't have done it."

Watson said that Angelos has some of the old Marconi's recipes, but not the one for the chopped salad: "That's in my head.”