Sandwich smackdown! N’Ahhlins Muffaletta vs. da Philly Cheesesteak

New Orleans Muffaletta

Wanna hear a secret? We like to try and stay healthy when we’re on the road but sometimes we just crave comfort food. Something deep fried, smothered in cheese or loaded with calories.

Like a Philly Cheesesteak. Or a New Orleans Muffaletta. But if we had to choose between the two — the agony!

I went to college in Pennsylvania, which is when I first tasted a Cheesesteak: thinly-sliced steak fried with onions, peppers and mushrooms piled high on a hoagie roll with just enough secret sauce and topped with provolone cheese. It is the ideal college comfort food.

Philly Cheesesteak

Cheesesteak history dates back to the 1930s and a hotdog stand in south Philly’s Italian Market. When visiting the Liberty Bell a few years back, I couldn’t resist going past Pat’s King of Steaks for a few authentic sandwiches with the kids. The original was served without the extras, which the kids preferred. No peppers or mushrooms for them and there were no complaints.

But how can that compete with another gift from Italian immigrants, New Orleans’ famous Muffaletta? Not only does it have a great story, it tastes great too.

So, what’s a Muffaletta? It’s a sandwich with thinly sliced mortadella, salami, pepperoni, ham, provolone and savory olive salad, served on a Muffuletta loaf. Some folks like to heat it up to soften the cheese, but originally it was served cold.

It started at the Central Grocery of New Orlean’s famous French Quarter back in the early 1900s. Sicilian truck farmers who sold their produce at the nearby farmer’s market would come in, order each item individually, then leave to eat them like antipasto balancing the separate items in their lap. The owner had the idea to slice a soft round Muffaletta loaf and load it with these items to see if the farmers would like it. It was an instant hit.

I have to say our kids weren’t big fans of the Muffaletta. They didn’t like the olive salad, which is really a key ingredient in the making the sandwich. The adults, however, enjoyed every bite.

OK, your order’s up. What’ll it be? What makes it the better sandwich?

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