Bread, layered cold cuts, provolone—this could describe any number of Italian-esque sandwiches, hoagies or heroes. But the muffuletta, hailing from the great city of New Orleans, is something different altogether. It is one of those creations that’s truly more than the sum of its parts.
What makes it so? Its structure: a massive round sandwich served cut into wedges. Its olive salad, seeping between the meats and into the soft bread. And the way that this fusion of flavors only gets better over time. It’s easy to see why the muffuletta was invented as a lunch for New Orleans’ workers: A single wedge is a substantial meal, and the rest of the sandwich keeps well for hours or even days.
The filling: Salami or soppressata, mortadella and provolone stack up to create the muffuletta’s layered look. Then, a tangy olive relish, with herbs and giardiniera-like tiny chopped vegetables, with olive oil that picks up all of those flavors and carries them throughout the sandwich.
The bread: A squishy, sesame–studded round loaf is the proper base for a muffuletta; accept no substitutes. Slice it into wedges and reveal the meaty strata within.
Where to get it:
Central Grocery. The original birthplace of the muffuletta, it still makes a very respectable version: stacked high with meats and cheeses, served from a shop that looks every bit of its 100-plus years old.
Cochon Butcher. How to do the traditional muffuletta one better? Make everything in-house. Donald Link’s crew bakes the soft, slightly sweet bread, creates the incomparable giardiniera, and layers on cold cuts they cure themselves: capicola, mortadella and salami.