A Special Mardi Gras for Central Grocery
Central Grocery, one of New Orleans' best-loved specialty foods stores, had to close for a few months after Hurricane Katrina hit. But one of its owners forged ahead to re-open in time for Mardi Gras and the Central Grocery's 100th birthday.
At barely 11 a.m., tourists and regulars line up in the aisles. Squeezed between the brightly colored tins of white anchovies and plum tomatoes, they want to be sure they're in time to snag one of the city's most famous sandwiches, the muffaletta. The huge round sandwiches are comprised of many layers or meats, cheeses and vegetables.
Larry Tusa, one of Central's co-owners, figures the mufaletta developed soon after Central opened in 1906. "The sandwich kind of evolved," Tusa says, "but it was small, it wasn't like this. They maybe made a dozen, two dozen a day."
The sandwich became an icon. So much so that homesick New Orleanians order them air-shipped on ice. The mufaletta can last all day without refrigeration, which made them the preferred sustenance not only for the folks who lined up to watch hours-long Mardi Gras parades, but for the people on the floats, too.
And while tourists and locals still line up for the muffaletta, the store's owners wonder whether the family business will continue in future generations. "You know It's not for everybody," says co-owner Sal Tusa. "We'll keep it going as long as we can."
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