A Muffaletta for Fat Tuesday - Jason's Deli Featured on The Food Network

February 15, 2010 (PRLEAP.COM) Lifestyle News
For the first time ever, Jason's Deli will be on national tv talking about how its muffaletta sandwich became a cultural icon in its delis around the country.

"We are absolutely humbled," exclaimed Joe Tortorice, the Founder and CEO for Jason's Deli. "When my wife, Shelley, and I started testing muffaletta mix recipes throughout 1977 and 1978, never in a million years did I expect it to become such a big hit."

Around the time of finalizing the recipe, Joe tried the best muffaletta bread in the U.S. at a small family owned bakery in New Orleans called Leidenheimer. Joe convinced the bakery's owner (Bobby Whann) to ship him bread daily to Beaumont via a Greyhound bus. Joe would pick up the bread at the bus stop, while Shelly and the deli staff pitted all the olives by hand in those early days via an old style buffalo mixer.

"Looking back, maybe it was a bit crazy to try and perfect the muffaletta mix every week while having two young boys tug at my skirt, but we were focused like artisans trying to make the most delicious muffaletta ever," said Shelley Tortorice.

To make a muffaletta, you start with the bread, which must remain crusty despite the onslaught of melted provolone cheese and olive oil. The next crucial ingredient is the muffaletta mix. Ours is handmade everyday. We take green and black pitted olives with an assortment of fresh vegetables, secret herbs and spices, plus the perfect amount of olive oil and blend them into a tasty mix. Then you add either ham/salami or turkey and bake the sandwich. You don't want the bread too dark, but the cheese must be melted and you actually want the olive oil dripp-y so that there's a chance of it landing on your shirt. The result is a delicious, mouth-watering concoction that will make you crave the exact same sandwich the next day.

The historical lore of the muffaletta is that Salvatore Lupo invented the Italian-style sandwich in 1906 at Central Grocery in New Orleans' French Quarter. The origins of the name are vague. Some sources say that it was named after one of Lupo's best customers; others believe that the name refers to the distinctive round sesame seed-coated bread. What's unanimous is that the muffaletta is one of the tastiest of all culinary creations.

The piece will air on The Food Network's Unwrapped show this Monday night, February 15th at 8:30 pm ET or 7:30 pm CT, but please check your local listings.

The restaurant concept which maintains a corporate office in Beaumont and regional offices in Dallas, Houston and Atlanta feeds more than 35 million people a year in 28 states through more than 200 delis including Chicago, DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Austin, et al.

Jason's Deli is a privately owned company started by a Beaumont, Texas family in 1976. It is currently number one in sales among fast casual restaurant chains with less than 300 locations (QSR Magazine, Jan. 2009).