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Muffuletta Report

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On a recent trip to N.O., I took friends to Napoleon House for muffulettas because of numerous positive reviews from those who should know better. Though I don't go to bars for the food, this, I thought, might be an exception, because of the glowing recommendations. The muff was tasteless on all levels. Went to Central for the real thing, albeit smaller than the past. At least it had the kick and flavor you expect.

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  1. Hungry, I couldn't agree more. Those are terrible and tasteless. The major taste of a good muff is the olive salad and theirs has no taste. We who live in the Quarter are constantly amazed at how people rank them as some of the best and cannot understand where they got this reputation. The owners are Italian (Impastato) but I think they just live on the reputation of the bar for the food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Panama Hat

      Thank you for that, Panama. With all the Napoleon Muff fans, I thought it was just me. What are they all thinking? No accounting for taste, I s'pose. I would hope that if Mr. Impastato would sample what they're serving, he'd be very upset.

    2. I'm like you. I couldn't figure out why anyone said they were good. But this is like most of the food at the Napolean House, esp. the red beans and rice--those are Blue Runner beans. If you like them or that is what you grew up on, fine, but those are not close to good like real red beans. Except for booze and ambiance, is there anything you like to eat there. When my girlfriend forces me to eat there, I'll have the meatball po-boy which is acceptable.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Panama Hat

        I've only tried the muff, Panama. Don't think I'll be adventurous any more there! I do love Napoleon House for what it does do good which is certainly not them muffulettas!

      2. Because they'd been drinking?
        Because they aren't from New Orleans and have no basis for comparison? Have never eaten a muffaletta before in their lives? Don't know what olive salad is?
        There's lot of postings on the NOLA board raving about the definitive, very best po'boy, gumbo, whatever from people who spend three days there. And then they trash the classics.
        I just shake my head...

        1 Reply
        1. re: MakingSense

          I guess well-respected (I think) local food critic Tom Fitzmorris, among other knowledgeable LOCALS, evidentally only fall into your #1 category: "been drinking". No amount of drinking would convince me that their muff tastes good.

        2. You live up to your name. That's one of the best posts I've seen.

          1. Years ago, I would have recommended Frank's Deli (Decateur, just down from Central Grocery), for the best Muffs in NO. Frank is gone, and his mother-in-law, who did much of the cooking is longer gone. His WERE the best in NO. We'd do Muff tastings with visiting friends, first Central Grocery, then Frank's, and no one voted for Central Grocery as #1. I had the Muff at Napolean House once, and swore - never again.

            The Gagliano kids now (or did on my last visit) run Frank's and so very much has changed from the old-days, with mother-in-law at the steam table in the window, and I doubt that the Muffs are as good. Gotta' go back and do an A-B comparison again.

            Man, I long for the days, when I'd bike down from River Ridge, share a Muff with wife, and then do Frank's mother-in-law's roast beef po-boy with swiss and hot mustard (she'd keep a bottle hidden behind the counter, just for me). Her RB po-boy put Mother's RB "debris" to shame! But, those days are long gone. Only Acy's Pool Hall's version could compare, but the Admin. has already slapped my hand for talking about the good-old-days!

            Hunt

            1. Lived in or near New Orleans most of my adult life before moving to Virginia. Recently went to a "New Orleans-style" restaurant here in Richmond (Jacquemo's) and had their muffaletta. If I had never had a real New Orleans one before I would have liked what I was served - BUT, their muff has MUSTARD on it and the olive salad is basically chopped olives and vinegar. Ecch!

              Was able to take my wife to the Central last year (before Katrina) and introduce her to the real thing, and we were back there again last October. Still my favorite.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Dietnot

                Is that the same owner as the Jacquemo's in New Orleans which is fun and good? Stlll sounds horrible.

                1. re: Tonto

                  No way. If people there had heard of Jacques-Imo's in New Orleans or its branch in NYC, I would have thought that they were trying to capitalize on the name.

              2. R & O's restaurant on Hammond Highway at the Lake has a good muff.

                1. My husband and I headed to the airport yesterday and decided not to deal with going down to the quarter, on a holiday, to Central Grocery for a muff for the flight home. (We were visiting his family) After a little online research we ended up stopping at the Come Back Inn in Kenner. Pretty tasty. They even packed the olive relish separately. The relish wasn't as good (not as much olive oil) but a pretty good sandwich nonetheless. We didn't know that it would take 20-25 min. for the sandwich so we ordered the red beans and rice with smoked sausage to eat while we waited. It was the daily special and a steal at $4.99. Both of those orders and a 1/2 pitcher of Bud came to less than $20. Check it out if you don't have the time or the patience for CG on the way to the airport.

                  1. Sometimes when I need a quick muff I'll go around the corner on Bourbon Street and get one. But when I get home, I'll scrape off the olive salad and put on Boscolli's olive salad--not as good as Central or Franks's but sure a lot better than Napoleon House. At least it has taste.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Panama Hat

                      isn't Central not more than 5 blocks or so from Bourbon??? Hmmm.

                    2. Ever heard of a place being closed at night???????

                      1. My fridge is never without a handy-dandy quart jar of Central's olive salad.

                        1. Hungry, have you tried Boscolli's olive salad. I like it better than Central (which I do think is real good). The rest I've tried have been weak on the olive oil and/or spices.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Panama Hat

                            No I haven't but I've seen it and will try it. I tend to like a nice garlicy,herby,olivey taste. You're so right, lots of salads are blah blah blah -- it's like the maker is thinking, "I like the look of olive salad but hate the taste, so [Eureka!] I'll make one that's tasteless!"

                          2. Sounds like the Napoleon House (where this thread started).

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Panama Hat

                              Hahahahaha! The full circle of mediocrity.

                            2. Hungry,
                              The circle wasn't quite complete. In this months Southern Living there is a section on sandwiches and they say the Napoleon House has a "superb muffuletta". It you look at this forum and the menu.com forum, locals think this is the worst, most tasteless attempt at a muff in town. Kind of lets you know how to trust Southern Living's reviews.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Panama Hat

                                Geez, Panama Hat, should I just shake my head and repeat my earlier theory that somebody had been drinking?
                                Hadn't tried a few good muffalettas before they hit Napoleon House?
                                They had a poor version but it was still better than most of the boring sandwiches they had had in their lives?
                                Olive salad was just a new concept?
                                I suppose we should start a new thread with a list of really, really good muffys all over the city...
                                Live in the solution instead of shaking our heads over Napolean House.

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  Sense,
                                  You're right when you say to compare it to the boring sandwiches they've had. My vote for best muff is Frank's.

                                  1. re: Panama Hat

                                    When I lived in the FQ, I always picked one up at CG when I was making groceries.
                                    My family lived in the now washed-away Lakeview. They would drive all the way to the West Bank for DiMartino's muffs. Extra newspaper to protect the carseat from the olive oil if we didn't eat in. Those are really first rate!

                                  2. re: MakingSense

                                    Lived in NOLA most of my life and found that MO's on the west bank had a pretty good Muff (pre-K). Sure miss my home town food! When people ask me what I miss most about NOLA I say the food and the people.

                                2. I love the Napoleon House for many reasons (I think, pimms cups and atmosphere), but food is not one of them, and certainly not muffelattas! Central Grocery is the only place for that, in my book. But, does anyone know how easy olive salad is to make at home? Try making the recipe from John Folse's Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine--make it the day before and let it sit. Go to your nearest italian deli for the meat and cheese and get some good bread from a bakery. It is superb.

                                  1. I disagree with all the previous posters regarding the food at Napoleon House. My husband & I have eaten & enjoyed many meals there for over 20 years. The RB&R, jambalaya, bruschetta, & yes, muffulettas are delicious! And that, contrary to the belief of this thread, is not the drink talking! Enjoy the muff of your choice :-)

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: philmaur

                                      In my humble opinion there is no place on earth like Napoleon House, the atmosphere, the walls, the music, the rich history....I used to work as a tour guide for groups of traveling Sicilian chefs and they DEMAND Napoleon House muffulettas and would discuss them for hours. I cant say that i blame them...its the only heated muffuletta in the city and according to Sicilans, the olive salad is the best around.

                                    2. I thought the "olive salad" on a muff was called.... Tapenade.
                                      Is there a difference between Tapenade and N.O. "olive salad?

                                      Anyone have a good recipe for it?

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: kelomaki

                                        Yes, there is a distinct difference. Olive salad is usually mostly green olives lightly chopped or cracked, along with some other finely chopped, pickled stuff like cauliflower, carrots, pepperoncini peppers, celery, etc, whereas tapenade is mostly black olives chopped finely. Properly made olive salad has an obscene amount of fresh garlic, too.

                                        1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                          Thanks HC...
                                          Interesting... I didn't relize that.... love the central Muff !
                                          I would still like to get a recipe for the NO style olive salad.
                                          Any leads?

                                          1. re: kelomaki

                                            This site if often a good starting point:

                                            http://www.gumbopages.com/food/samwic...

                                      2. gonna have to jump on the pro-NH muff bandwagon...the muffs at central grocery are way too greasy/salty for me...and I'm not a lightweight...I find the NH muffs much better because I can actually taste the meats/cheeses...after a central grocery muff I feel like I have to shower down and soak in a tub to offset the grease and salt....sorry but true...my most favoritelately: Jezz's kitchen at Dorignac's ...fresh/good deli and not overly greasy for $3.99/half

                                        1. That's what's good about them--salty, greasy, and tasty. If I want a ham sandwich, I'd get a Ms. Drake's. To me, olive salad taste makes the muff. NH olive salad has no taste.

                                          1. Tom Fitzmorris's new book New Orleans Food has a recipe for Olive Salad and instructions for making a Muffuletta. (Of course, Panama complains that Fitzmorris likes NM's version so that may discredit this recipe.) The cookbook is a good one and the notes on local dishes are excellent so buy it. Portions of the proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity. I'm pulling this one out a lot lately.

                                            I'm not going to give the "from scratch" version because of the copyright restrictions but Fitzmorris say that you can make an olive salad using about a quart of prepared Italian giardiniera. You would have to add about an equal amount of pitted, coarsely-chopped green and brine-cured black olives and 1/4 cup of capers. Marinate the chopped giardiniera and olives in 1 1/2 cups olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup brining juice from olives. The mixture needs to marinate at least a day but a week is better.
                                            Of course, you then have the problem of finding the right bread...

                                            1. If any of you that live in NOLA want to be adventurous and venture to the West Bank, DiMartino's Muffelattas on General De Galle serves an outstanding muffelatta. They also have another WB location although I don't know where it is. I've had Central Grocery's muffelatta and it is good, but if you eat it there you have to eat it unwarmed, and its not the same.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: pinotgirl

                                                DiMartino's other location is in Terrytown. They have a great Muffuletta. My family often drove from Lakeview to get them. And they are terrific warmed, just until the cheese melts and the bread is crisped!
                                                It's not that adventurous either. Lots of good restaurants on the West Bank that get ignored too often.

                                              2. Please Making Sense, I live on the west bank, where are these restaurants of which you speak.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Tonto

                                                  Look on www.nomenu.com for places in Harvey, Gretna, Algiers, Belle Chase, and St. Bernard that have reopened. Quite a few stars sprinkling the list. Most are pretty simple neighborhood places. Not like the old LeRuth's but good eats nonetheless.
                                                  St. Bernard was hit pretty hard by Katrina but coming back pretty strong.

                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                    I know what is open, I just don't think any are all that good. Have to cross the river it always seems.

                                                2. No one mentioned Nor-Joe's. The last time I had one, it was exceptionally good! Anybody tried one lately?

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: cajungirl

                                                    Nor-Joe's is by far my favorite.

                                                    1. re: cajungirl

                                                      Nor-Joe's is great; well worth the trip to Old Metairie.

                                                      1. re: mhiggins

                                                        Aside from the muffs, Is Nor-Joe's an interesting grocery worth a stop?

                                                        1. re: N.O.FoodFan

                                                          For sure. Mostly Italian fare, but good olive oils ,fresh mozzarella, exotic cheeses, canned tomatoes, and a all kinds of good stuff.

                                                      2. re: cajungirl

                                                        Easilly the best Muffs in the city, Central grocery has good downhill as of late. They're still good (since they stilll get the real muff bread, which only a few places get) but they are not what they once were, and they are not anywhere near as good as Nor Joes.

                                                        1. re: jessepilot

                                                          is nor-joe's open on Sunday? i've got a friend flying out tomorrow who wants to torment the other passengers on the flight to New York with a muffuletta.

                                                      3. Forget about Central Grocery and Frank's...they're both like the knee-jerk recommendations of Mother's for roast-beef po-boys...ALL HYPE, don't believe it!

                                                        As far as places in the tourista zone, walk a few doors down from Central to Progress Grocery and try their muffuletta and see what you think. Hands down the best in the Quarters, and blows away Central.

                                                        I'm glad someone mentioned Nor-Joe's...not in the tourista zone, but definitely worth the trip. Among the best in the city, though it is technically in Metry.

                                                        Another place out of the zone and known to locals mostly is Liuzza's on Bienville St. Try the frenchuletta for a different take on the muff, along with a hefty, icy-cold schooner of beer. Yeah, you rite!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: funkjester

                                                          I agree with you about Progress's Muff.... but the sad news is that Progress has been converted into a tee-shirt shop for over 5 years now....

                                                          They still do wholesale deliveries, and mail-order....

                                                          here is a link to their moribund website:
                                                          http://www.progressgrocery.com/

                                                          1. re: JerseyNOLA

                                                            That's depressing news...I didn't know that they weren't there anymore. I sure wish somebody could save places like this from extinction; it's tragic.

                                                        2. I just had a central grocery muff for lunch. I still like 'em but I swear they used to have twice as much meat. I still think their bread & olive salad is tops in the "cold muffaletta" category.

                                                          Liuzza's frenchuletta is my favorite hot one by a mile.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Chris Martel

                                                            I still like 'em too and I've heard lots of people say they used to be bigger but I must say I don't leave hungry. I keep a jar of their olive salad in my fridge at all times.

                                                          2. The best Muffaletta that I have recently tasted -- as of several days ago, was at Nor-Joe's in Metairie. We tasted it side by side with the classic Central Grocery sandwich and we all agreed that while the Central Grocery muff is still very good -- the Nor Joe's is just more stuffed and more artisanal. The Nor Joe's muff is made to order whereas the Central Grocery ones tend to marinate in the olive salad for an hour or so, but they are constantly being produced to fill their queue. Central Grocery uses 3 types of meat and one type of cheese, whereas Nor-Joesuses mortadella, two types of ham, salami, provolone and emmentaller, plus more olive salad, although it is more finely chopped. You also have the option of doing extra meat, olive salad on the side, or extra olive salad, whereas at CG, one size fits all. The Nor-Joe's one is also discenably heavier on the olive oil in the salad, which I like, and tends the preserve the sandwich over a long trip. It actually tasted better several hours later and was still very good the next morning for breakfast. And its easier to park at Nor-Joes and it is closer to the airport.

                                                            We also tried to get a Muffaletta at Serio's, the one that was recently profiled on Bobby Flay's show on Food Network. I asked for a muffaletta and they said they were out of olive salad. Interpret that as you wish!

                                                            I should have a blog post up in a few days, but for the time being, enjoy the side-by-side photo.

                                                             
                                                            10 Replies
                                                            1. re: OffTheBroiler

                                                              "...its easier to park at Nor-Joes and it is closer to the airport."

                                                              Never really considered that, but that's a good benefit, too. Beats eating at the concessions in Louis Armstrong International, and would be a nice trick to have a fresh Nor-Joe muff on a JetBlue flight out of N'Awlins headed for JFK...lol. Not a bad partner for a bag of Terra Blues...Good call!

                                                              1. re: funkjester

                                                                Jetblue YES. Airtran NO. :) That's all I'm gonna say!

                                                                You really should have seen the look on everyone's faces when we cracked that puppy open on the plane... the smell of that olive salad utterly reeked. Went great with the new Tabasco/Creole Tomato Zapps.

                                                              2. re: OffTheBroiler

                                                                Thanks for the photo. I'm putting Nor Joe's in my GPS. (I'm new to the area...still finding my way.)

                                                                I finally made it to Central Grocery for a Muffaletta. It was great. The best I've had so far......But your photo tells me that I have to find Nor Joe's!

                                                                1. re: OffTheBroiler

                                                                  Every so often, the Nor-Joe's olive salad is off. Way way off. Old garlic off. So now I ask for a little taste before I order my muff. Beats the heck out of a mouthful of rank OS>

                                                                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                                    Not suprising considering once at Nor-Joe's I saw -- no joke -- a jar of minced garlic on the shelves that'd passed its expiration date by several YEARS. The contents were turning dark brown.

                                                                    Also, that photo illustrates my main gripe with their muffulettas; the olive salad does not come into contact with the bread, leaving the bread dry and hard to swallow.

                                                                    1. re: Chris Martel

                                                                      I didn't find the bread hard to swallow. But then again, after marinating it in the wrapper for like 4 hours, it had a ton of olive oil drenched into it.

                                                                      1. re: Chris Martel

                                                                        and c'mon, shelved garlic preserves is not what they use on muffulettas or in Olive Salad.

                                                                        1. re: OffTheBroiler

                                                                          I never said it was-- but the fact that they allow the other products in the store to collect dust for years on end does not speak highly for the freshness of their other products. That experience alone has prevented me from buying things like their fresh mozarella and anchovies--which mysteriously have no dates whatsoever on them.

                                                                          1. re: OffTheBroiler

                                                                            how do you know jarred garlic isn't used? the veggies used in olive salad comes from jars and cans. maybe when they run out of fresh garlic, they pop open a jar of the rank stuff.

                                                                      2. re: OffTheBroiler

                                                                        i tried the nor-joe muff a couple months ago. it is stuffed with more goodies but i still like the flavor and texture/consistency of central's the best. and really, after half a muff and some zapp's from central is anyone still hungry? so all that extra stuff doesn't really matter to me. central tastes the best still. imho. but i'll prob got back to nor-joe's and give em another try. and i'm not a fan of a heated muff but the frenchuletta at liuzza's kicks @#$

                                                                      3. World Deli on Clearview at West Esplanade has a very good Muffuletta. I like it heated best but they will make it to your specifications.

                                                                        1. Central grocery for me, no doubt! The original is still the best!

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: crazy4eating

                                                                            I'll vote for World Deli on Clearview too. Wondeful meats and cheeses and the olive salad is delicious.

                                                                          2. Help me out! We now live on the northshore, so I can not get in my car to go find out the name, and I need to recommend this place to a friend. I am looking for the name of a restaurant. I think it is on Jefferson Hwy., but could be Airline. (It has been several years since I have been there), and it serves really great muffalettas. It is on the north side of the street, and is an established (read old) family like restaurant with traditional New Orleans food. Lots of people there at lunch. I think it may have once been a motel or still is. I know these are rambling clues, but I am trying to dig deep into my recollection : )