I chose this week’s word because we added it as a new sandwich to our menu last week. I had never heard of a “muffaletta” (also spelled muffuletta) sandwich before it popped up on our menu. Once I started looking into it, I realized this lunch staple that originated in early 20th-century New Orleans has an interesting history behind it.
muffuletta; muffaletta [moof-fuh-LEHT-tuh] A specialty of New Orleans, this hero-style sandwich originated in 1906 at the Central Grocery, which many think still makes the best muffuletta in Louisiana. The sandwich consists of a round loaf of crusty Italian bread, split and filled with layers of sliced provolone, genoa salami and ham 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 New Food Lover’s Companion, page 500
Salvatore Lupo stands behind the counter of his store, Central Grocery, in 1906. Lupo invented the muffuletta the year this photo was taken, at his Decatur Street grocery store. [Source]
The Muffaletta gets it’s name from the bread that it was classically served on – an italian bread similar to focaccia in that it is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, but muffaletta bread is lighter than focaccia. And while the sandwich came to be in the French Quarter of New Orleans, it is actually Sicilian immigrants who can be credited for the delicious combo of ingredients.
Per the History of the Muffletta Sandwich site:
Italian immigrant, Signor Lupo Salvatore, owner of the Central Grocery, started making the sandwiches for the men who worked the nearby wharves and produce stalls of the French Market.
Marie Lupo Tusa, daughter of The Central Grocery’s founder, tells the story of the sandwich’s origin in her 1980 cookbook, Marie’s Melting Pot:
One of the most interesting aspects of my father’s grocery is his unique creation, the muffuletta sandwich. The muffuletta was created in the early 1900’s when the Farmers’ Market was in the same area as the grocery. Most of the farmers who sold their produce there were Sicilian. Every day they used to come to my father’s grocery for lunch. They would order some salami, some ham, a piece of cheese, a little olive salad, and either a long braided Italian bread or round muffuletta bread. In a typical Sicilian fashion they ate everything separately. The farmers used to sit on crates or barrels and try to eat while precariously balancing their small trays covered with food on their knees. My father suggested that it would be easier for the farmers if he cut the bread and put everything on it like a sandwich; even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion. He experimented and found that the thicker, braided Italian bread was too hard to bite, but the softer, round muffuletta was idea for his sandwich. In very little time, the farmers came to merely ask for a “muffuletta” for their lunch.
Muffaletta Sandwich, the girl & the fig-style, with house-cured mortadella, coppa, coppa cotto, dijon, and house pickled peppers, on a french baguette. We switched it up by trading in the classic olive salad spread for delicious house-pickled peppers.
Make your own classic Muffuletta Sandwich, recipe & source here
Looking to take a vegetarian spin on the classic? Try this delicious looking eggplant muffaletta, recipe & source here
Vendredi means “Friday” in French. Each week we add something new to our culinary vocabulary by delving into a word (or two) found on our menu. We love food, we love words, and we love to learn something new. We also love Fridays.
Happy Vendredi, everyone!