Created in New Orleans, the muffaletta still largely a local and somewhat regional treat, and it might be the most enjoyable significant preparation in the Crescent City’s culinary legacy from the Sicilian immigrants. It was created at the Central Grocery in New Orleans’ French Quarter sometime after it opened in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo. Still around and 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.
That bread was the distinctive, dense circular loaf called muffaletta originally from Piana degli Albanesi, a largely ethnic Albanian community fifteen miles from Palermo. The muffaletta bread had been baked in New Orleans for at least a decade at that time. Customers quickly took to the creation, which was named after the bread. Since the loaf is fairly large, about 10-inches in diameter, a normal order is a half a muffaletta. When purchased from the Central Grocery where it is spelled muffuletta, it is a sandwich that improves after a few hours when the oil and vinegar from olive and vegetable mixture can penetrate and soften the thick bread. The versions in Houston typically use softer bread that are meant to be eaten on the spot that can be enjoyable, if something just a little different.
923 Decatur, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116
A full muffaletta (or muffuletta) from the Central Grocery in New Orleans. These are really tasty and travel well. I make sure to pick up one (or more) each time I am in New Orleans.