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Have you ever had a muffuletta? A muffa-whata, you say? How is it that New Orleans came to have an Italian sandwich as one of its most famous dishes?
Although Louisiana was colonized by the French and later the Spanish, by the 19th century the city began to draw large waves of Italian immigrants. Between 1850 and 1870, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated there were more Italians residing in New Orleans than in any other American city. Not long after, a mass migration of Sicilians came and settled in the French Quarter, boosting the number of Italians there to eighty percent of the total residential population. Many of them were entrepreneurs and restaurants and Italian groceries like Central Grocery began cropping up en masse, thus the birth of the muffuletta, a delicious sandwich of cured meats, provolone cheese and olive salad on seeded bread.
Joseph Maselli and Dominic Candeloro trace the social, family, political, and religious history of Italian Americans who make up the largest ethnic group in the city today.