The Muffuletta Sandwich is a New Orleans classic. This olive salad sandwich is a Sicilian born creation that consists of a round loaf of sesame bread (about 10 inches across) filled with Genoa salami, olive salad, Italian ham, Mortadella, Provolone and Swiss cheese, and freshly minced garlic.
The Sicilian immigrants who arrived to the Port of New Orleans from the Port of Palermo in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, brought with them strong customs, recipes, food traditions and ingredients. The Sicilians settled in the French Quarter and set up shops close to the French Market. This section of the lower French Quarter was referred to as “Little Palermo” and the “Italian Sector,” and was home to a multitude of small businesses. These included Sicilian bread bakers, who baked a traditional Sicilian loaf called the “muffuletto.” These early bread bakers often sold their wares on the street, yelling “muffuletto, caldo, caldo.” Bakers also sold their loaves wholesale to grocers.
The Italian Market, the Central Grocery on Decatur Street, claims to have invented this sandwich in 1906. The story goes that an Italian immigrant, Signor Lupo Salvatore, owner of the Central Grocery, started making the sandwiches for the workers at the nearby wharves and produce stalls of the French Market. The sign over the covered sidewalk proudly proclaims, home of The Original Muffuletta.
If you go to Frank’s on the next block, they say that the real originator of the Muffuletta Sandwich is Giuseppe Muffuletta, a Sicilian immigrant man who sold his sandwiches from a horse drawn cart long before Lupo Salvatore began making his delicious Muffs. Whatever the true story is, it is a great tradition and the sandwiches are served across the city and in the French Quarter.
I bought a half a Muff from The Central Grocery and a half from Frank’s Restaurant. I put them side-by-side, took a photo (On the left is Frank’s and on right is Central Grocery), and tried each one. I have to admit there is sense to the unwritten rule that a Muffuletta Sandwich should not be served hot, but there is also something comforting about the way Frank’s gets the cheese melted and the bread hot. After much deliberation, Central Grocery has an edge over Frank’s on the Muffuletta.
Central Grocery 923 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116-3381 Phone: 504 523-1620
Frank’s Restaurant 933 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116 (504) 525-1602