Chef's Choice Recipes: Vince Valenza's Muffuletta Sandwich

BluesCity11.JPG
Robin Wheeler
Vince Valenza of Blues City Deli shows off his muffuletta sandwich.
The signature item on the menu at Blues City Deli, this giant sandwich is named for the round Italian bread used since New Orleans' Central Grocery invented the sandwich in 1908.

"Back in the mid-80s we didn't know what a muffuletta was," Blues City Deli owner Vince Valenza told me when I interviewed him for today's profile. "In the downtown St. Louis Italian neighborhood -- Sicilians -- we did muffulettas, but we called them muffulettas [Italian pronounciation]. It was a round bread sliced in half just like a muffuletta, but then it was olive oil, strong cheese like Romano, anchovy and some spices like salt, pepper and oregano. We'd put it in the oven and melt it. That's what I knew as a muffuletta."

Valenza continues: "A friend of mine told me that in New Orleans they put meat and an olive salad on it. I tried theirs and thought it was awesome. Started doing some research and found out about Central Grocery down there. Talked to them. Called down there one day and talked to a lady -- she wasn't an owner, just a worker. I said that I'm opening a restaurant in St. Louis. How do you put this thing together? She said first you put the cheese on, then you put the Volpi Salami -- they use Volpi down there -- then mortadella. Then I got on the Internet, got a recipe for the olive salad and tweaked it a little bit."

BluesCity12.JPG
Robin Wheeler
Vince Valenza's Muffuletta

Serves 2-4 people
1 8-inch loaf round Italian bread with sesame seeds, sliced horizontally
4 slices mozzarella
4 slices provolone
1/4 pound Genoa salami, sliced thin
1/4 pound mortadella, sliced thin
1/4 pound smoked ham, sliced thin
2 cups olive salad (recipe follows)
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
1. Place mozzarella on one slice of bread and provolone on the other in a single layer. Add the three meats.

2. Place top half of bread on sandwich and cut into quarters.

3. Remove tops again, add olive salad and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Replace top half of bread again and serve.

Olive Salad

Coarsely chop equal parts pitted kalamata olives, Sicilian olives and giardiniera. Do not over-chop; leave olives in halves and quarters. Spice with salt, pepper, oregano and Tabasco to taste.

Robin Wheeler writes the blog Poppy Mom. She is a regular contributor to Gut Check, including the columns The Dive Bomber and Throwback of the House.
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