The muffuletta is an Italian-style sandwich from New Orleans, made with ham, mortadella, salami, cheeses and olive relish. It was most likely invented, in its present form, in 1906 by Lupo Salvadore at Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter. It is one of the New Orleans classic foods and a pivotal part of the Italian-Creole heritage.
When looked at from a more global viewpoint, however, the muffuletta is basically a New Orleans twist on one of many types of Italian sandwiches, or panini. The muffuletta is Sicilian in origin. There are sandwiches made in Sicilly today called "muffoletti" on round, flat bread made of whole-wheat dough with black pepper and anise, with grilled sausage, fish, hard-boiled eggs and vegetables. And there are other Sicilian panini that are similar. One is called "sfincione": flat soft bread with sautéed onions, caciocavallo cheese, anchovies, oregano, breadcrumbs, tomato (sometimes cheese, anchovies, herbs, spices and sauces), garnished with sliced artichoke hearts, sliced mushrooms and peppers.
The New Orleans muffuletta is made using a round loaf of soft white bread crusted with sesame seeds. The bread they use at Central is actually not that special: white soft french bread dough with sesame seeds on top. There are frankly many other Italian breads that have much more interesting taste. But, it is the ingredients that count! The bread at Central is round, and about 10 inches across, with mortadella, ham, genoa salami, mozzarella and provolone cheeses, and most importantly its signature olive salad. The best places to get a muffuletta like that are Central Grocery on Decatur Street, Napoleon House on Chartres Street, Liuzza's on Bienville Street, Arabi Food Store on Friscoville Avenue and Progress Grocery in Metairie.
For the sandwich:
Last updated: December 12, 2009