The muffuletta sandwich was created in 1906 at Central Grocery Co. on Decatur Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, by its owner Salvatore Lupo. Sicilians, however, have been making various versions of the bread for centuries.
A muffuletta is a large, round, and somewhat flattened loaf with a sturdy texture, around 10 inches (25 cm) across. It is described as being somewhat similar to focaccia. Bread used for the muffuletta is different from focaccia, however, in that it is a very light bread, the outside is crispy, and the inside is soft. It has no additional seasonings baked into it, aside from the sesame seeds The bread is more like French bread, but slightly heavier. It is most akin to an Italian dough recipe. Italian dough includes flour, water, egg, olive oil, yeast, salt and sugar. French bread uses flour, water, yeast and salt.
A traditional-style muffuletta sandwich consists of a muffuletta loaf split horizontally and covered with layers of marinated olive salad, salami, ham, Swiss cheese, provolone, and mortadella. Quarter, half, and full-sized muffulettas are sold.
The signature olive salad consists of olives diced with the celery, cauliflower and carrot found in a jar of giardiniera, seasoned with oregano and garlic, covered in olive oil, and allowed to combine for at least 24 hours.
A muffuletta is usually served cold, but many vendors will toast it.
In Greater New Orleans a seafood sandwich is made with muffuletta bread and fried seafood, often including oysters, shrimp, catfish and occasionally softshell crab. The seafood muffuletta omits the olive salad in favor of the traditional dressings of a seafood po’ boy, such as melted butter and pickle slices, or mayonnaise and lettuce.
Central Grocery is a small, old-fashioned Italian-American grocery store with a sandwich counter, located at 923 Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. It was founded in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo, a Sicilian immigrant. He operated it until 1946 when he retired and his son-in-law Frank Tusa took over the operation. Today it is owned by Salvador T. Tusa, Salvatore’s grandson, and two cousins, Frank Tusa and Larry Tusa. The store was one of many family-owned, neighborhood grocery stores during the early 20th century, when the French Quarter was still predominantly a residential area. Though tourists are more common in Central now, it has retained much of its old-world market feel.
The Central sells not only the sandwiches as take-out or eat-in, but also the ingredients of the muffuletta—including olive salad by the jar—for people who want to make the sandwich at home. Because of the muffuletta, Central Grocery was featured on national television, in the PBS special program Sandwiches That You Will Like
Central Grocery sells Italian, Greek, French, Spanish, and Creole table delicacies. They also carry less-mainstream selections, such as chocolate-covered grasshoppers and bumble bees in soy sauce, which are perennially displayed in the store’s front windows. Marie Lupo Tusa, Salvatore’s daughter, is author of the cookbook Marie’s Melting Pot, which has hundreds of Sicilian, French, and Creole-style recipes.
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