Anatomy of a dish: muffuletta

It’s not your average sandwich. This Insta-sensation is the perfect portable picnic lunch, packed with the lot.
Muffuletta from A1 Canteen

A1 Canteen's muffuletta.

Photo: Alicia Taylor

Does it look familiar? Yes, this is that sandwich you’ve been seeing all over your Instagram feed, thanks to Sydney’s A1 Canteen. It was Sicilian migrants to New Orleans, though, who first created the muffuletta. Salvatore Lupo, the original owner of the Central Grocery & Deli, served the hearty sandwich to local workers on Decatur Street in 1906. Layers of Italian deli goods are packed into a hollowed-out loaf of bread that’s pressed, sometimes baked, and left for the flavours to meld and the olive brine-spiked oil to seep through. A1’s take, pictured here, is served as a flat slice, almost like a sandwich terrine, though traditionally, a muffuletta comes in a pie-like slice so every bite involves every layer. Unlike your school sangers, this one gets better the longer it rests. Did someone say picnic?

1. Bread

The original loaf was a traditional Sicilian “muffuletto”. It resembled a large, flat hamburger bun with a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top. At A1, it’s sourdough which is hollowed out until just the crust is left, the inside brushed with mustard before the layering begins. If you were going to go DIY, ciabatta or focaccia are solid substitutes. You’re after a crust that isn’t going to get soggy, but isn’t too crunchy either.

2. Sliced meats

The musts: salami, ham and mortadella. They might be interspersed between helpings of cheese and antipasti or assembled all together. Soppressata and capocollo may also make an appearance.

3. Cheese

You’ll see thin slices of provolone, Swiss and often, mozzarella. The cheese softens the hit of salt and acidity coming from the layers of cured meat and antipasto.

4. Antipasti

Traditionally, the olive salad is the star here. Green and Kalamata olives are chopped up and mixed with the likes of capers, vinegar, garlic and dried herbs such as oregano. Artichokes, sundried tomatoes and capsicum aren’t strangers to the sandwich and in A1’s version here, spinach plays a part.

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