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Dozen Best Muffulettas

The well-made muffuletta is not only an essential New Orleans eat, but one of the world’s best sandwiches. Although it’s obviously Italian, you won’t find anything quite like it in Italy. In fact, even its name is little known in Sicily, from which its New Orleans-bound inventors came. To them, “muffuletta” was a dialect word for a round, thick loaf of bread.

One of these immigrants (there is dispute over who he was) used the bread to make a new kind of panino in the early 1900s. Enclosed inside are ham, salami (neither the hard kind nor the very soft, but somewhere in between), mozzarella and Swiss cheese (at least), plus mortadella and provolone (perhaps). The unique touch that gives a muffuletta its character is its chunky salad of olives, peppers, garlic, and various marinated vegetables. A muffuletta is essentially an antipasto sandwich.

Muffuletta.

It’s a fascinating battle between elements with powerful flavors (salami, garlic, olives) and those with mellow, moderating flavors (cheese, olive oil, and crusty bread). The ham centers everything else. It’s a flavor like nothing else in the sandwich world.

Two controversies attend the muffuletta. The first is who invented it. It certainly came out of first-generation New Orleans Italian grocery stores in the French Quarter. The Central Grocery claims to have been the one, but there are other creation myths.

The other issue is whether it should be served at room temperature–the way the oldest places have always done it–or hot, as it commonly is these days. I think that heating a muffuletta upsets the balance of flavors and makes the meats and cheeses greasy. But most shops now heat muffs automatically, and if you want it at room temperature, you must ask. It’s a good idea, because the maker will know you’re serious about quality and will give your muffuletta special attention.

Moderately bad news: the baker of the classic muffuletta loaf–the United Bakery on St. Bernard Avenue–was wiped out by Katrina and has never returned. Other bakeries have filled the gap, some better than others. I always ask before I order, because the bread is as important as any other aspect of a great muffuletta. Angelo’s, Cartozzo’s, and La Louisiane are the most consistent. The worst: supermarket muffuletta bread, with the exception of Dorignac’s.

1. Bosco’s. Mandeville: 2040 La Hwy 59. 985-624-5066. ||Covington: 141 TerraBella Blvd. 985-612-7250. Bosco’s has the bread, the good ham and salami, and the good cheeses, all sliced very thinly and finished with a great homemade olive salad. Even by the gargantuan scale of the muffuletta, this one is enormous. One could make two muffulettas out of the amount of fillings Tony Bosco puts on one.

2. Nor-Joe Imports. Metairie: 505 Frisco Ave. 504-833-9240. Norma and Joe run a grocery store selling exactly the kinds of meats and cheeses and olives and olive oil you want to find on a muffuletta. And they put them to good use.

3. Frank’s. French Quarter: 933 Decatur. 504-525-1602. Back in the days when the discussion of the muffuletta came down to whether you thought the Central or the Progress Grocery made it better, a small crowd of non-conformists made their way down to the end of the same block as those two famous muffmakers to get the sandwich from Frank’s. It’s still right up there.

4. Napoleon House. French Quarter: 500 Chartres. 504-524-9752. Once the best muffuletta in town, the Napoleon House lost its consistency as it bakes those sandwiches more and more often. Still good ingredients, though, and an unbeatable old New Orleans environment.

5. Central Grocery. French Quarter: 923 Decatur. 504-523-1620. The Central Grocery is to muffulettas what Antoine’s is to French-Creole food. It’s not a restaurant but strictly a take-out place. A line snakes through the aisles of the small grocery store, full of Italian specialties. The meats are top-notch, but the used in quantities that may take you aback if you’re used to the loaded-down suburban shops.

Muffuletta pizza.

6. Slice. Lee Circle Area: 1513 St Charles Ave. 504-525-7437. ||Uptown: 5538 Magazine St. 504-897-4800. Pizzerias always have all the makings of muffulettas, and some even make muffuletta pizzas. (Sounds better than it is.) These classy pizza places put more emphasis on quality deli meats and cheeses than most.

7. Parran’s Po-Boys. Metairie: 3939 Veterans Blvd. 504-885-3416. Big, thick, everything made in house except the bread. Ask to have it toasted before the meats and cheeses go on.

8. Giorlando’s. Metairie: 741 Bonnabel. 504-835-8593. Long s great sandwich shop, Giorlando’s has evolved into a fine all-around neighborhood cafe. The muffuletta is as good as the roast beef poor boy, which is saying something.

9. Katie’s. Mid-City: 3701 Iberville. 504-488-6582. Tremendous in girth and thickness, with crusty, toasty bread.

10. Johnny’s Po-Boys. French Quarter: 511 St Louis. 504-524-8129. The muffuletta here takes second place to the poor boys, but the latter are among the best in town. No important details are missed on the muff, and the bread is excellent.

11. Come Back Inn. Metairie: 8016 W Metairie Ave. 504-467-9316. A major specialty of this neighborhood eatery since the 1960s, it’s the place a lot of Metairie people think of when the muffuletta hunger wells up.

12. Vucinovich’s. New Orleans East: 4510 Michoud Blvd. 504-254-5255. If you’re in extreme New Orleans East on Chef Menteur Highway, you have two choices: a great Vietnamese meal, or a poor boy, platter, or muffuletta from this consistently fine little shop.


18 Readers Commented

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  1. Joe Pando on July 16, 2015

    Agree! Bosco’s is the best, hands down. All the rest are just OK, by comparison.

  2. Sara on July 16, 2015

    For me the best muffaletta in the area is at diMartino’s. Not too oily, generous with the meat and cheese without being so thick that you have to dislocate your jaw to eat it, and with the right tang to the olive salad.

    There’s one more controversy about this sandwich: the pronunciation. Is it “muff- a-let-tah” or “moo-fa-lot-ta”? (I say the former.)

    • Tom Fitzmorris on July 16, 2015

      I say “moof-uh-LAH-tah.”

      I like almost everything at DiMartino’s except the muffuletta. They slice the meats too thickly, and the bread is too much like a hamburger bun.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

      • Clarence on July 17, 2015

        I agree with Sara on DiMartino’s, in Covington, it is close to my house.

  3. Andrew on July 16, 2015

    I am looking at the menu at the St. Charles ave Slice as I type. There is no muffuletta pizza listed. I guess you could build your own.

  4. Ji Ji Amite on July 16, 2015

    what about the muff at cochon? i suppose there ought to be another column of contemporary muffs to follow the list of the classic stand-bys.

  5. B. Bennett on July 17, 2015

    World Deli Clearview Pkwy. Metairie

  6. Amarone on July 17, 2015

    The World Deli could have easily made the list.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on July 17, 2015

      And it would have if the list had been the 13 best.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  7. IRIS on July 17, 2015

    DiMartino’s (as far as I’m concerned) is the BEST Had out of town guests and happened to
    frequent several on the list. None come up to Mr DiMartino ‘s

  8. Frank Peterson on July 21, 2015

    I have sampled 6 of the muffulettas on your list. All are quite good. Next time, please consider the muffuletta sandwich at Terranova’s grocery on Esplanade Ave. next to Lola’s. They are on sale only on Saturdays, and are all gone by noon. I find them to be the freshest and among the tastiest of all.

  9. Tom Jr on July 21, 2015

    R&O’s has the perfect muff in my humble opinion. We have several differences of opinion on muffulettas: I prefer heated, but with room temperature olive salad (warming it correctly is an art); never swiss cheese – provolone only, maybe w/ mozzarella (it’s Italian). How it’s heated, the olive salad, and the bread make the sandwich (the rest are just cold cuts).

  10. Tim on August 2, 2015

    Tom you are so correct on the importance of the bread used on a muffuletta. Ever since we lost United Bakery I struggle to find any muff up to the taste these days. It really is all about the bread when it comes to a muff or a po- boy for that matter.

  11. John on June 28, 2016

    Went to Frank’s yesterday. After winning the argument to not just go to Riverwalk food court. Was extremely disappointed at muffuletta . Very little meat (if they put less, you wouldn’t be able to see it), very little olive salad, and not sure there was any cheese!! Not a good value. Seems like a tourist trap, an expensive one. My wife got a shrimp poboy and it was pitiful. For 14 bucks it was 6 1/2 inches and had less than 10 shrimp on it. Tom, you probably need to revisit Frank’s and maybe remove it from your list!! Maybe they recognized you and made you a better muffulaetta. One of the few times, I wished we went to the food court.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on June 29, 2016

      What did they say when you let them know of your upset?
      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  12. Garry Van Amburg on January 20, 2017

    To me the muffalettas at Giorlando’s on Bonnabel Blvd in Metairie are the best. They toast them in a broiler if you don’t tell them otherwise but I don’t think that toasting them diminishes their quality in any way.

  13. Barry on January 30, 2017

    For me the best muffuletta is Mo’s Pizza on the Westbank in Westwego. I’ll admit that you will have to be a fan of the warm muffuletta to think the same. They warm theirs in a pizza oven which gives the meat and cheeses unique crispy edges unlike other muffuletta’s I’ve had anywhere else.

  14. Marie on May 17, 2017

    I am looking for the shop we used to go to when I was young. We took Clearview Parkway towards W Esplande. It was next to a shell gas station on the left side. Little hole in the wall type of place with like maybe 10 parking spaces. Had the best muffaletta’s I’ve ever tasted. Anyone remember this place and the name. Is it still open for business.

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