923 Decatur Street, New Orleans
Nor-Joe Importing Co.
505 Frisco Ave
Metairie, LA 70005-4215
The Muffuletta from Central Grocery in New Orleans, the sandwich of love.
What could be better than expressing your love for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day than by making them a giant, meat and cheese stuffed Italian cold-cut sandwich? And as far as I am concerned, nobody does it better than the city of New Orleans, with its “other” signature sandwich — the Muffuletta. Certainly, if someone were to drop one of these babies on my doorstep, even in my current health-freak and weight loss inspired state, they’d be my sweetheart for life.
One such sweetheart is author Sara Roahen, who has a love affair with the city of New Orleans. Her new book, “Gumbo Tales“, which is being released on February 5, 2008, talks about the Muffaletta in some detail:
Central Grocery on Decatur Street in New Orleans’s French Quarter.
“I admit to having favored other muffulettas in the past — the bigger ones at Nor-Joe Importing in Old Metairie, the cheaper grab-and-go ones at Zara’s Supermarket in Uptown, the ones with more olive salad at Dimartino’s across the river. But there’s no stand-in for a muffuletta from Central Grocery, because there’s no stand-in for Central Grocery. Dried fava beans in burlap sacks, fig cookies in cellophane bags, salt cod in wooden slide boxes, olive oil in gallon tins, sherry vinegar on unreachable shelves, tomatoes from San Marzano, truffle oil from Umbria, anchovies in jars, halva in cans, vacuum-packed semolina, marinated octopus, white cheeses, hanging salamis, green coffee beans…some of the grocery‘s products are so unfamiliar that walking among them transports you to a foreign place, and some of their labels are so dusty and faded the goods appear to be relics stocked by Salvatore Lupo himself.”
Do you want to make your sweetheart a Muffuletta for Valentine’s Day? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
The counter area at Central Grocery, where all the muffuletta magic occurs.
Olive Salad, the essential ingredient in a Muffuletta sandwich.
The “Secret” ingredients to the Central Grocery Olive Salad. Gumbopages has reverse-engineered it if you are inclined to make this stuff yourself. Of course, you can just call Central and have them send you a few jars, too. My buddy Danno at NOLACuisine.com also has a nice looking recipe as well.
Zapp’s Potato Chips, sold throughout New Orleans, are the ideal companions to a Muffuletta.
While the Central Grocery Muffuletta is the gold standard, to actually learn the art form, I was directed to Nor-Joe’s Imports in nearby Metairie.
Nor-Joe’s, like Central, is also an Italian grocery store, with imported goods from all over Europe.
While less famous than Central’s, Nor-Joe’s Muffuletta is top notch and provides a superior environment for observing the sandwich construction process.
First, is the round Muffuletta bread that defines the sandwich itself. The best way to describe it is like a giant sesame seed hamburger bun — its designed to soak up olive oil from the olive salad like a sponge and essentially “preserves” the sandwich, making it an ideal meal for traveling. Muffuletta sandwiches, when tightly wrapped, will taste just as good — if not better — four to six hours later from when they were prepared — even overnight or a day or two later, if refrigerated. If you are going to make a Muffuletta at home, I would use either a foccacia bread or a large seeded hamburger bun. You can also try baking Danno’s version at NOLACuisine.com, which looks pretty legit.
The loaf is sliced in half.
In the Nor-Joe’s sandwich, both Provolone and Swiss Cheeses are used. The Central Grocery sandwich only uses Provolone.
Next, the Mortadella and Salami.
Next, Prosciutto and Coppa Ham.
A big healthy layer of Olive Salad.
The Sandwich is then cut into quarters.
Then wrapped tightly in butcher paper and a plastic wrap to keep it from leaking. It’s all ready for travel — buy a couple of these before you get on a plane when leaving New Orleans, you’ll thank me later.
The Nor-Joe’s Muffuletta.
Nor-Joe’s Muffaletta (left) and Central Grocery (right)