Home to the nation’s lavish holiday decked in purple, green, and gold, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras attracts thousands of party enthusiasts to the Bayou each year. From Twelfth Night on January 6 to Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras in late February, the city transforms into an all out Carnival complete with king cake, towering floats, and flaming torches, and of course, excellent food

In a city defined by its robust cuisine, it's only fitting that bold flavor makes its mark on Mardi Gras traditions. Beloved meals eaten throughout the festivities have carried the essence of New Orleans and its most famous holiday to every corner of the nation, including the Windy City. Among the most illustrious Mardi Gras classics: The Muffuletta Sandwich.

Where was the Muffuletta invented?

Invented at the French Quarter’s Central Grocery by Sicilian store-owner Lupo Salvadore, the Muffuletta makes use of many ingredients Italian provisioners brought with them across the Atlantic. Known for their expert gardening skills and ample produce knowledge, Southern Italians arrived in Louisiana starting in the mid 19th century ready to enter the budding food industry. These kitchen-savvy Sicilians quickly altered the South’s eating habits, and cemented the Muffuletta into New Orleans’ lasting repertoire. 

Not a meal to be taken lightly, the sandwich features stacks of mortadella, capicola, salami, provolone, plenty of giardiniera — Italian pickled vegetables — olives, and red peppers all stuffed between two slices of Sicilian sesame bread. The salty olive salad scooped generously onto both sides is what sets an epic Muffuletta apart from the rest, and gives the sandwich its distinct Italian flare. 

Where to get the  Muffuletta in Chicago

Though rooted in the Big Easy, the reputation of the Muffuletta knows no bounds. Thanks to Chicago’s many Sicilian-inspired eateries, it’s possible for Midwesterners to partake in the taste of a Mardi Gras Muffuletta miles away from the main action. A meld of immigrant history, local cuisine, and excellent flavor profiles, this sesame sandwich is everything Mardi Gras aims to celebrate; a piece of New Orleans pride no matter where you find your party. 

Rosie’s Sidekick

Deemed Chicago’s “‘Sopranos’-Worthy Muffuletta” by food critic Michael Nagrant, fast-casual Logan Square sandwich shop Rosie’s Sidekick has a version of the towering, sesame-topped sandwich that is the bite to beat. Big enough for two, Rosie’s rendition of the New Orleans staple offers layers of mortadella, Genoa salami, capicola and their special olive medley, and two pieces of homemade Muffuletta bread.

Image by Rosie's Sidekick

Rosie’s extensive menu also includes fresh-sliced deli sandwiches, meatballs, pizza bread, daily soups, and a variety of classic sweets like Tiramisu and sprinkle-topped butter cookies to finish off every meal. Available for in-store pick-up, delivery or online ordering, it’s easy to get your hands on some of Rosie’s Sidekick’s no-frills Italian fare.

J.P Graziano Grocery Co. Inc

Since 1937, Italian grocer J.P Graziano Grocery Co. Inc has served the Chicago area with impeccable sandwiches, Sicilian staples, and high quality wholesale products. Fine-tuned over four generations of family ownership, when it comes to their Muffuletta, the West Loop location is not playing around.

Imported provolone, Krakus ham, Genoa salami, mortadella, and a house-made mild Muffuletta mix come together on a D’amato’s sesame roll to create a hearty bite. Add-ons like spicy sopresatta, roasted red peppers, and truffle mustard vinaigrette allow for customization, but the original version stands perfectly on its own. For those addicted to J.P Graziano’s version of the New Orleans classic, jars of hot and mild Muffuletta mixes are sold in-store and online as a way to bring the flavors home. 

Tony’s Italian Deli & Subs

Tony’s Italian Deli & Subs keeps it old school with their take on Lupo Salvadore’s invention. Homemade olive salad, salami, capicollo, mortadella, and mozzarella on two slices of round bread make a trip to Edison Park worth the trek — along with a few freshly-made cannolis and Tony’s signature calzone. With an honorary street sign to prove it, Tony’s is a neighborhood gem sure to fulfill any Mardi Gras craving.

If ever in New Orleans, Central Grocery is the place to be, but Chicago’s many delis show that the Midwest has plenty of Muffuletta competition to offer. A tasty symbol of New Orleans history, to omit Sicilian food from the Mardi Gras festivities would be a disservice to decades worth of delicious contributions and a culinary legacy nationwide. From the shores of Palermo, to the French Quarters, all the way to Chicago’s Northside, the Muffuletta is a New Orleans staple worth the hype and Mardi Gras accolades, so long as it's slathered with plenty of olives.