Located on Decauteur just across the street from Café du Monde and the French Market, the Central Grocery in the French Quarter district of New Orleans is renowned for it’s Muffuletta Sandwich and is famed as the ‘Home of the Orginal Muffeletta’
The Muffuletta was supposedly invented by Italian immigrant, Signor Lupo Salvatore in 1906. He was the owner of the Central Grocery and started making this Sicilian style sandwich for the men who worked on the nearby wharves and at the produce stalls in the French Market. The Central Grocery has been in the same family for three generations Before we visited the Quarter to track it down I had read that there were often long lines or queues here and so I had walked in expecting a wait. I was to be in luck, there was no line and so I was able to just stroll up to the counter to order my sandwich. So I did just that.
There is an option to buy a whole sandwich or just a half, I went for the half sandwich option and that was plenty of sandwich for one person, to be honest on a light eating day enough for two. Once upwrapped from the greaseproof wrapper I was accosted with two quarters of the beast. The bread is thick and slightly chewy, sprinkled with sesame seeds which added a nice toasted nutty bite.
Inside the sandwich you get tightly packed layers of meat and cheese; salami, pepperoni, ham, capicola, mortadella, Swiss cheese, and provolone. They are topped with a layer of chunky marinated green olives, a mild Italian giardiniera. I had been a bit doubtful about the olive component, but it actually did work for me, or rather for my taste buds. It was a bit on the briny side and quite tart like the juice from a jar of pickled onions is how I could best describe it. The addition of the creaminess from the cheese and the saltiness and pepper notes from the different meat layers produced an almost indescribable bite sensation, sweet, tangy, tart, creamy, peppery, salty. It was all there in just one mouthwatering bite.
Before I ordered I could not have possibly believed that one person could eat a whole Muffuletta sandwich, but after just a couple of bites from one quarter piece I was to quickly realise that it would be relatively easy to gorge upon the whole beast and gobble down the whole goddam thing.
Central Grocery is described as ‘a small, old-fashioned Italian-American grocery store with a sandwich counter’ it is located at 923 Decatur Street, in New Orleans French Quarter. It is about 5 minutes walk away from the Central paved area in front of the cathedral, just walk towards the river and turn right in the direction of the French Market and you will find it easily.
I don’t know if this is the best Muffuletta in New Orleans but as it was the ‘original’ I was only ever going to be making a stop at Central Grocery to try this sandwich out. I thoroughly enjoyed it despite the fact that I didn’t have to stand in line for an hour. I guess I don’t mind missing that part of the Central Grocery Muffuletta experience.