Friday, September 09, 2005


A Tribute to New Orleans: THE MUFFULETTA

Isabella has been unable to think of the luxury of cooking and eating in her dry, comfortable home while thousands of her fellow countrymen are suffering and dying.

As I watch this disaster unfold, I remember a wonderful trip to New Orleans two years ago, (also to Biloxi, and Mobile.) And as the sadness and poignancy of this awful time engulfs her each day, Isabella wants to remember the special place that is New Orleans and the many things that make it special.

While in New Orleans I discovered a fantastic sandwich, the muffuletta, which originated in NOLA by Italians. I’ve never found this sandwich in any other American city, and I wonder why.

French, Spanish, African and Creole are not the only cultural and culinary heritage of New Orleans, nor is the “po-boy” the only sandwich that is famous in this sultry, jazzy town. The muffuletta is as New Orleansian as the po-boy, and there’s nothing Creole about it. It is pure Italian, and pure Sicilian if you want to be specific.

New Orleans, in its population and its cuisine, owes much to Italy and especially Sicily; Italians have been coming to the Crescent City since the 1880s. It wasn't always easy for them -- one of the worst lynchings in American history was a massacre perpetrated upon a group of Italians in New Orleans in 1891.

The Italians soon settled in comfortably into New Orleans culture, and we are the richer for it. Their contribution to local culture and cuisine has been immeasurable; in fact, you frequently see "Creole-Italian" referred to as one of the local sub-cuisines.

According to legend, the muffuletta sandwich was invented by Signore Lupo Salvadore, who opened the now-famous little Italian market called Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter in 1906 and created the muffuletta sandwich, named for a favored customer (although I had also heard that the sandwich was named for the baker of the round Italian bread on which the sandwich is served).

You'll hear lots of New Orleanians pronounce the sandwich "muff-uh-LOT-uh", but I understand that the proprietors of Central Grocery pronounce it "moo-foo-LET-ta". The common abbreviation is "muff"; e.g., "I'll take me a half a muff."

The sandwich consists of the round loaf of crusty Italian bread, split and filled with layers of sliced Provolone cheese, Genoa salami, capicola ham, and mortadella, topped with olive salad: a chopped mixture of green, unstuffed olives, pimientos, celery, garlic, cocktail onions, capers, oregano, parsley, olive oil, red-wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

The sandwich is layered with the meats, cheese and olive salad, then wrapped tightly with waxed paper. People who’ve been eating this sandwich for years advise that you let it stand for an hour or more so that the flavors of the filling blend and improve. It is an unforgettable sandwich. And one sandwich can easily feed two or three people.

Isabella plans to make them to honor the beautiful, tragic city of New Orleans. She suggests you all do the same while listening to Sweet Emma sing "Just a Closer Walk With Thee."

Great post Isabella.
For years I've wanted to try a Muffuletta! When New Orleans is back in business, I might just go get me one.
Excellent post, Isabella! It contained a lot of history I hadn't known before now. I would never have thought there was so much Italian influence there, but you learn something new every day.
Lovely post, thanks for the history lesson and recipe. I can't wait to make a Muffuletta.
Qué estupendo post, Isabella. ¡Y qué bueno ese pan muffuletta! Gracias por la historia. Qué hermoso tu tributo a Nueva Orleána: tan entrañable como sencillo.

Thanks for stopping by.

mister anchovy,

Olive salad is available in grocery stores. I’m sure you can find the salami, mortadella, capicola and cheese at a local deli, the difficult part in making a muffuletta would be in finding the bread. But I’ll bet you could do that. Make your own muffuletta and report back to me.

Hi WC,

Glad to be able to pass along this information to you. Actually, there is a branch of my own family living in Houma, Louisiana, about an hour by car, south of New Orleans. They started out in New Orleans and left years ago and established an independent grocery in Houma. The family is known all over the bayou area in southeastern Louisiana.

red molly,

Let me know how you managed in making your muffuletta. Thanks.


gracias por sus palabras buenas y por visitar mi blog.
We have muffaletta in Chicago. I had no idea where it came from or that it wasn't widely known. I've never been a big fan of it though.
I know the muffuleta bread and olive salad are available here, undoubtadly available in some italian market in a huge city like toronto!

great post!

made me hungry. Think I'll go to Bamber's Superette (the local Italian market), and get one from the deli!
Thanks Laura and thanks GWB for letting me know that the muffuletta IS available in other cities around the country. I'm in Boston's Italian district (The North End) and have not seen it here.
We have a restaurant in Nevada City called Ike's Quarter Cafe. They serve authentic cajun style food. In fact, my husband and I ate there last weekend and I had an excellent ham sandwhich served with gingered collard greens on the side. Their corn cakes are to die for.
Isabella! I eat provolone cheese every day.. it's bad for my organism but I love it!
Bye! :D
thanks for this post!
This is a wonderful post, Isabella. Funny, I did the same thing the other day by making red beans and rice. I hear that's the traditional food on Mondays in New Orleans. Monday was the traditional day to do the wash, which back in the old days took all day. So, the beans were perfect to make because they took all day to cook. BTW, it was delicious.
Cool blog you have going here, I will check in often! I have a similar site about food service. It pretty much covers food service related stuff.
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