About a year ago it came to light on The Food Show (airs 2-4 pm weekday on WGSO 990 AM) that the space that Sucre used for a commissary had been taken over by the Ralph Brennan Group and used as a company-wide bakery. It took many months for us to have Drew Pope, in charge of this essential operation, on the show to talk about breads, pastries, desserts, and volume.
In the conversation, he mentioned that all the muffuletta bread used at The Napoleon House was baked at the commissary bakery and that he had developed the recipe, which he felt was an improvement on the usual version. His description of the Napoleon House muffuletta bread so intrigued me I felt the need to seek out this sandwich
As a muffuletta fan of the highest order, I have had more than a few. Technically a muffuletta is a sandwich on a dense round loaf of bread, but there is wide variation in the bread around town. The Katrina-induced departure of United Bakery from the New Orleans food scene was a big loss to the classic sandwich.
The bread that comes closest to that, or so it seems to me, is what Scot Craig is serving at Katie’s and Francesca’s. Gendusa makes it for him. If I can be forgiven the blasphemy of ignoring Central Grocery, this muffuletta is it. The ratio of bread to meat is perfect, and the stiffness and density of the crumb is just right. The crust is so hard-toasted it is almost seared.
Last Sunday was Muffuletta Day according to this publication’s almanac, so I went to the Napoleon House to get the aforementioned muffuletta. (I did a comparison of all the famous local ones a few months back. Search “muffuletta” in the bar on this homepage) This comparison is more of a duel. It would only include Napoleon House and Katie’s.
I tried calling The Napoleon House to order to-go, but after ten tries I just drove over. The French Quarter was so busy I could barely squeeze into an illegal space at the front door. (Tom remained in the car.) Two nice young ladies at the entrance instructed me to order at the bar, which was filled to overflowing. There were people standing behind the chairs, and I thought they were part of a group. It turned out that the people at the bar were waiting to simply place an order, not waiting for an order.
I just couldn’t leave Tom in the car that long, so we had to abort the plan. And Katie’s was closed by this time, so that was the end of the impromptu “Muffuletta Day Challenge.”
The next day was Monday, and I went to Francesca’s to pick up a muffuletta. Exactly like Katie’s, it reinforced my fandom. We did not return to Napoleon House because there wasn’t time for that kind of wait. I did get a glance at a muffuletta on a table, and I was surprised and disappointed to see that the bread engulfed the meat. Maybe the characteristics of the specially-developed bread compensate for that, but I will have to go back and see.