What up y’all?!
I’m standing outside of Central Grocery,
home to the original and the world famous Muffuletta.
I’m gonna run inside and grab something to eat, because I’m starving.
And later on, we're gonna go visit some Italian cultural sites that mean a lot to the city of New Orleans.
And after that, I'm going to head over to over to Avondale to meet up with Lisa Mosca over at Mosca’s and get some
and get some down home Italian grub.
Y’all know what this is.
This is Good Gumbo!
So we are here at Central Grocery.
This is home to the original Muffuletta and I’m here with Frank the owner.
Frank, your family has owned this for over 50 years, correct?
And in New Orleans we say, this sandwich we’ve been saying Mufful-ah-tta but it is actually Mufful-et-ta.
This sandwich has sustained a lot of people.
Man, growing up, I used to eat this. My mom would come home
with a big ole, one of these wrappers and she would cut it into little pieces and
and she would feed all of us and I had no clue as a kid
that this sandwich was so big. This is a big sandwich.
It feeds 2 people, or sometimes 3 or 4.
Can you tell me a little history about the Muffuletta?
Actually, the name Muffuletta is the style of the bread which originated in Sicily.
The bakers would come around the neighborhood and sell these breads.
And that is how the name Muffuletta originated.
Let’s put one together.
I want to see how it’s done from the original.
Let’s start off with the all-imported cold cuts.
This is the Genoa Salami.
Put a layer.
Then we follow with imported ham.
In Italy they call this Prosciutto.
Then we got Emmenthal. It's 130 days, they age this.
Then we have a mild Provolone.
We add the Provolone, so it's not as much salt as the other cold cuts.
Then this is the Mortadella.
And those are pistachios, right? Right.
Then we finish it with the Genoa.
Even more Salami?
It’s hearty. It's a hearty sandwich! Yeah.
So this is an Italian olive salad, right?
So there is no mayo, no mustard, none of that.
No, It’s a cold sandwich by design.
And we cut, make four parts.
I’ve been waiting for this all day! I can tell you.
It's a big sandwich. We’ve always been that way.
This sandwich, right here, is part of my history and is part of my culture because I grew up eating it.
But more importantly, it’s part of the history and culture of New Orleans.
And that’s what’s important.
So, Justin, we are here at the Piazza d’Italia, yeah? That's how you pronounce it?
Yeah, you gotta have that accent in there.
It is sitting right behind the American Italian cultural center. Yeah.
So that means that they built all of this for the Italian community.
Actually, a New Jersey guy. He got interested in fostering pride in Italian heritage and it manifested
itself in this fabulous museum and this piazza.
I know that you can probably go anywhere in this city and find great Italian food.
Why is the Italian community so big here in New Orleans?
Well, the Italians started coming here in the 1830s, because Sicily was the world’s
leading producer of citrus.
Lemons were very important in the 19th century, in cooking you didn't have soda, you didn't have all this stuff
they were used in canning with citric acid.
And Sicily was the world’s leading producer.
And so when we are talking Italian New Orleans, what we are talking about are Sicilians.
And they come first because of the citrus trade and then they diversify and they get
steam ships and start bringing in bananas and they use those same steam ships to bring
in the poor, bigger wave of Sicilians starting in the mid 1880s.
Where would you go eat for the best Italian food in the city.
Oh my gosh, there’s so many.
We love Mosca’s, right?
It’s almost like a sacrament to go to Mosca’s.
Yeah, it is.
It’s one of the few places that still just only takes cash.
I’m actually going later on this evening.
Oh man, when Oysters Mosca’s comes out to you and it's just right, it's real hard to beat.
That’s what I want right there.
We’re here in one of my favorite dining rooms in the whole country.
This restaurant has been around for 73 years?
Cooking really comes from within.
And you that’s why you can taste it in the food here, this love of family, this love
of what you guys do, it carries through over and over and over.
I understand that your Mom is always in the kitchen.
She’s always in the kitchen.
If she’s not here, we usually close because she doesn’t trust anyone else in the kitchen.
So she is there every night.
Tell me about the Oyster Mosca.
It’s a baked oyster dish.
It’s kind of a secret family recipe.
But they have special seasoning.
It’s in a stainless steel pie pan and they top it with Italian bread crumbs.
And it’s baked in the oven.
Every time I come here I have that dish, but I also have the Spaghetti Bordelaise, but also the Chicken.
Why is that chicken so good?
The pans are really old.
We always say it’s the pans.
How many people you got coming in tonight?
Which is a lot for us.
We are a pretty small restaurant.
And then all of y’all are going to do this together?
That’s a true mom and pop operation.
Matter of fact, when we get done eating this, I might just stay around and help you out.
I would appreciate that.
(laughter) Let’s not waste anytime.
We gotta dig in!
My grandfather is the one who came up with the dish.
So your grandfather is the reason why.
Good man right there.
Obviously it’s a secret recipe and I’m not gonna pull it out of ya.
I know your mom would probably kill me, huh?
Yeah, or me.
(laughter) Lisa, This has been an amazing experience.
The Oysters Mosca, the Chicken Alla Grande, everything has always lived up to its reputation.
I really appreciate it.
It’s been an honor.
Thank you for having us.
Thank you for coming.
We appreciate you.
I’ll Be Back!
Check out PBS and Eater’s new season of “No Passport Required.”
John Chef Marcus Sammuelsson on a journey across the U.S. to celebrate the incredible
immigration traditions and cuisine woven into American food and culture.
Tune in or stream the show on the PBS video app.
Head to the link in the description below for more.