Photo: Ralph Anderson
An olive salad and a crusty round loaf are the hallmarks of this New Orleans favorite.Take a bite of a well-prepared muffuletta, and you'll know why these large, round sandwiches remaind enduring standards of the New Orleans food scene. Filled with layers of salami, ham, cheese, and olive salad, muffulettas are the cold-cut competitors of the po'boys. The flavors are bold, and the servings are generous.
Muffuletta lovers are divided on whether they prefer the sandwiches warm or cold, but they find them a taste delight either way. The crusty Italian bread offers a mouth-boggline chew and soothes the garlicky, salt intensity of the olive salad and salami in the filling.
History of the Muffuletta
Who created the first muffuletta is a matter of dispute, but food critic and historian Gene Bourg uncovered a likely scenario. He interviewed elderly Sicilians who lived in the French Quarter for many years. "They told me vendors used to sell them on the streets as did Italian groceries," he says. The name refers to the shape of the bread. 'Muffulett' means 'little muffin.' Italian bakers made muffuletta loaves and sold them to Italian delis. The delis then wrapped the sandwiches in the same paper the bread came in so the sandwich took on the name.
Where to Find a Muffuletta
You'll find many places to enjoy muffuletta in New Orleans, but two favorites reside on Decatur Street. Lines begin to form outside Central Grocery by midmorning. Luigi's Fine Food, two doors down, offers an excellent sandwich without the wait. Or try the warm muffuletta at Napoleon House Bar & Cafe on Chartres Street. If the Big Easy isn't in your travel plans, don't despair.