Salvatore Lupo’s Muffaletta


It was my mission this time around in New Orleans: to try the original muffaletta created by Salvatore Lupo, a Sicilian immigrant who opened up his humble Central Grocery store in the early 1900’s.  Located in the heart of the French Quarter at 923 Decatur Street, this is a must on your NOLA excursion list.

The morning of my arrival (this was about a week ago), I got a cup at Community Coffee and checked email – pretty much killing time until it was acceptable to have lunch. (Noteworthy: Community Coffee is a chain coffee joint in NOLA, but don’t let that fool you, they serve great coffee – nice and strong).

It was 11am when I headed to Central Grocery. I walked briskly in the door and up to the counter, “two muffuletta’s please”. An older Italian guy (a bit grumpy) grabbed my sandwiches. They were pre-made, wrapped and ready for the afternoon rush – I trusted they were fresh. He swiped my card while simultaneously rambling on the phone in Italian. All said and done, it was a very fast transaction. I was lucky. Usually, the line is out the door.

I sat in the back where they have stools and a long counter and unwrapped the hero with overwhelming emotional excitement. I took a huge bite while staring wide-eyed at a framed poster of the beloved Pope John Paul II… What a serene moment – it tasted so incredible, so fresh, heavenly (I can’t even).

After my impulse bite, I opened it up to investigate. Central’s version contains salami, olive loaf, swiss, provolone and of course the olive mix which Central refers to as an “olive salad”. After taste and visual documentation, I concluded the olive salad consists of extra virgin olive oil, vinegar (I think), 2 olive varieties (both green), chopped onion, pimento, garlic and oregano. The bread is soft, flat, round and seeded with sesame. (Muffuletta is actually the name of the bread itself, but it is now also means the famous Nawlins hero.) The diameter of my loaf was about 10 inches! The ratio of meat, cheese and olive salad was perfetto. I’m actually surprised there wasn’t more meat variety. I’ve had other muffuletta’s in New Orleans that had an assortment of meats but funny enough, they weren’t nearly as tasty. Central’s olive spread is the highlight – its like throwing antipasto on your sandwich – brilliant. I don’t think eating a regular Italian hero will ever satisfy me again (maybe The Godfather comes close, but not close enough).

I’ve been to New Orleans a hand full of times but I was always to hungry and/or hungover to wait on the long line at Central Grocery. I thought, “Oh, it’s probably all hype”.  I was wrong. It’s famous for a reason and at first bite I became a  devout follower.

I was going to bring back half for my friends who were all still sleeping, but I ate more than I initially intended to – I ate their shares. Because I over ate (total food coma), I had to order more. 15 minutes later, when I was ready to purchase the second round, there was a line of about 20 people. Gosh, I got there just in time.

I can’t stress enough how mouth-wateringly wonderful this sandwich is – and for $7.50 per half, its a steal. Afterall, Central’s muffuletta has been quoted as “One of the great sandwiches of the world.” It would be a sin not to try the muffaletta when you’re visiting the great city of New Orleans. Damn, writing this is making me crave one desperately…