I think people who grew up eating muffulettas tend to think of them as, well, muffulettas – a sandwich unto itself, a given in the local catalogue of good food. Others who discover the sandwich later in life after forming all kinds of food associations – like myself – sometimes tend to define the muffuletta by what it resembles. I remember one early attempt going something like this: "It's like an Italian grinder on better bread. And, um, with lots of olives and olive oil. And, ah, yeah, no lettuce or tomato."
Recently, I've heard the more erudite description of the muffuletta as antipasti on a sandwich, which seems like an especially apt comparison for the specimen prepared at Just Italy, the Metairie deli I reviewed this week.
That's because owner John Bellini takes a purist's approach to both his muffuletta and his antipasti platters. Both are assembled from a truly well stocked deli case and both are several levels of ambition higher than the familiar standard.
You need to call Just Italy a day in advance to order an antipasti platter, but that little bit of preparation pays off with a nice assortment of cheese, black and fat, green olives and meats that might include hot and mild salamis and multi-colored mortadella with pistachio.
I ordered one (pictured above) as a light lunch for four people at a business meeting, paid $15, and felt like I had gotten the better end of the deal as we picked away at the meat, cheese and olives for an hour or so. I understand that the bigger the platter ordered, the more diversity of antipasti they pile on it. After seeing what all Just Italy stocks in its deli case, I think I need to start inviting more people to these lunch meetings.
- Ian McNulty