The sandwich takes its name from the distinctive, dense circular loaf about 9--inches in diameter also called a muffuletta. The loaf is sliced horizontally and filled with deli ham, mortadella, salami, slices of provolone and the olive salad that sets it apart that has pieces of Kalamata and green olives, bits of carrots and tiny tops of cauliflower soaked in olive oil. The ingredients are nothing special, supermarket-quality at best, aside from the bread, but the muffuletta from the Central Grocery is more than the sum of its parts, especially after a few hours when the olive oil seeps well into the loaf and the diverse and complementary component flavors began to meld some and the sandwich warms.
The muffuletta is one of the minority of popular American preparations where the creator is clearly known. It was created at the Central Grocery sometime after it opened in 1906 by owner Salvatore Lupo. Located near the French Market and the wharves, it was a popular stop for the immigrant Sicilian dock workers and truck farmers to make their lunch. His customers would purchase the meats, cheese, olive salad, which is traditional in much of Sicily, and bread. They ate these separately, in the Italian style. Without much in the way of space to eat in the small store, Lupo, seemingly taking a cue from the American habit, introduced these typically purchased group of items combined as a sandwich. Customers quickly took to the creation, which was named after its bread, which is originally from Piana degli Albanesi – or Piana degli Greci until 1941 – an ethnic Albanian community that is fifteen miles from Palermo, where this bread also popular, especially as a treat on the Day of the Dead on November 2. Interestingly, the sandwich is always cut in quarters and since the loaf is fairly large, a normal order is two quarters. A full order is half a muffuletta, something in line with the welcome quirkiness of New Orleans, alcohol-fueled or otherwise.
923 Decatur, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116