There are many, many sandwiches to be had in New Orleans as I learned when my fellow Chowzters set themselves the mission of eating every po’ bo they could get their hands on. I skipped that mission and focused my sandwich eating energies on the muffuletta. Leave it to this Italian-American boy to go all the way to New Orleans for a Sicilian sandwich.
Central Grocery, located in the Big Easy’s French Quarter is credited with inventing this Sicilian sandwich combo. It takes its name from the round sesame seed-studded Sicilian loaf. Central’s version consists of Genoa salami, mortadella, ham, mozzarella, and provolone, dressed with an olive salad. My eating buddy Joe “Hungry Dude” Hakim split a half sandwich as we were saving room for yet another Italian-American meal, fried chicken at Fiorella’s.
I ate just a quarter of it, but I have to say that the muff at Central Grocery was quite nice. The balance of meats and cheese with the olive spread was lovely. In addition to Sicilian olives, the spread contains gardiniera, and capers for a zippy acidic punch. It bears mentioning that instantly felt at home at Central,which is essentially an Italian-American deli. It took every ounce of my will power not order one of the gigantic breaded stuffed artichokes that sat on the counter.
On the day I flew out of New Orleans, myself and a few of my fellow gluttons paid a visit to Cochon Butcher. As we rounded the corner the aroma of pork and smoke filled my nostrils. Many people suggested Chef Donald Link’s homage to Old World butcher shops was a must. I can see why.
I had no idea the sandwich shop served the classic New Orleans Italian sandwich, but I’m sure glad we ordered a muffuletta. Central might be the originator of this sandwich, but Cochon takes it to new heights. A holy trinity of house-cured meats—Genoa salami, cappicolla, and mortadella—is piled high on the bread along with provolone and olive spread. The latter is decidedly zippier than Central’s. Cochon also warms its muff making it even tastier.
Our eating posse also had some head cheese, pimento cheese sliders, and peppery boudin blanc. To round things out we also two desserts: a slice of peanut butter pie with bacon, and a piece of Elvis king cake. “You’ve gone straight to 100 miles an hour,” our waiter quipped when describing this over-the-top creation. One look and I saw what he meant. The wedge contained peanut butter and banana and was topped with bacon. I was surprised that it didn’t come with a baby Jesus made out of Lipitor. The festive cake was a fitting end to an intense weekend of eating, I’m glad we split it among five people.
Central Grocery, 923 Decatur St., New Orleans, 504-523-1620
Cochon Butcher, 930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, 504-588-7675