Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Our tribute to great sandwiches continues with the Muffaletta, the New Orleans classic that started at the Central Grocery. Maria Lupo Tusa, daughter of the Central Grocery's founder, traced the origin of the sandwich in her 1980 cookbook, Marie's Melting Pot:

One of the most interesting aspects of my father's grocery is his unique creation, the muffuletta sandwich. The muffuletta was created in the early 1900's when the Farmers' Market was in the same area as the grocery. Most of the farmers who sold their produce there were Sicilian. Every day they used to come of my father's grocery for lunch. They would order some salami, some ham, a piece of cheese, a little olive salad, and either long braided Italian bread or round muffuletta bread. In typical Sicilian fashion they ate everything separately. The farmers used to sit on crates or barrels and try to eat while precariously balancing their small trays covered with food on their knees. My father suggested that it would be easier for the farmers if he cut the bread and put everything on it like a sandwich; even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion. He experimented and found that the thicker, braided Italian bread was too hard to bite but the softer round muffuletta was ideal for his sandwich. In very little time, the farmers came to merely ask for a "muffuletta" for their lunch.

However you pronounce it--and they do in various ways--the sandwich is a monster of delicious Italian coldcuts and olive salad on a massive roll. If you ever make it to New Orleans, head over to the Central Grocery on Decatur in the French Quarter and get in line, where it all began. Or make one yourself. Renowned New Orleans Chef Paul Prudhomme, who serves as an unofficial ambassador the the city (and serves as a reminder that we all eat salad once in a while) shows how to assemble this classic sandwich. Mangia bene, y'all.

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