Galileo Bread & Coffee vs. Flavors of Louisiana: Battle of the Muffaletta
Renée Guillory Galileo Bread & Coffee serves a muffaletta that's an elegant treat.
The Valley of the Sun is 1,500 miles from New Orleans' Little Palermo neighborhood, a district seated next to the French Quarter that happens to be where the muffaletta was born. And since this deli marvel is a multicultural invention, if you're Créole, it's pronounced muff-uh-LOT-ah; if you're Italian, it's MOOF-uh-LET-ah.
It's not known exactly when NOLA's iconic, working-class sandwich made its way west, but we can tell you that the muffaletta is a must-try. The hearty, salty, cheesy sandwich that defies spell-check programs in every language is on more than a few menus around town (not including those delis that offer the muffaletta only as a special), so we decided it was time to find a champion.
In this corner: Galileo Bread & Coffee
The Setting: Galileo Bread & Coffee is less a casual eatery than one which is dressed down. It's Scottsdale, after all. The café offers five gleaming tables inside, six on the patio, a bookshelf market of imported olive oils and other Italian specialties, a self-serve refrigerator for cold drinks--the slightly bitter Chinotto is a treat with the muffaletta--and two cases of pastry heaven.
The Good: Galileo turns the basic muffaletta recipe (deli meat, cheese, and olive spread), into an elegant treat. The olive salad is homemade, well-seasoned, and gets some extra kick thanks to a dash of finely-diced, homemade giardiniera relish. The melted provolone marries the textures and flavors of mortadella, salami, and prosciutto. Galileo's muffaletta is generously portioned and a good value, as well. Take it from us, a side salad pairs best--chips or pickled veg compete with the sandwich. The muffaletta is divine when served warm, but Galileo's holds up to the lunch pail test. (Invented by Salvatore Lupo for the Italian workers who frequented NOLA's Central Grocery, the muffaletta always was a sandwich on the go.)
The Bad: Purists might quibble over the choice and preparation of the bread. Rather than using the round, thick sesame bread that gave the panino its name, Galileo uses fresh-baked bread that they then toast and press. A bigger issue (for some palates) is the epic saltiness of this spicy sandwich.
In the other corner: Flavors of Louisiana
The Setting: Flavors of Louisiana is a family-owned and -operated bistro in the west Valley with no pretensions (which we love). The space reminds us of the dine-in grocery stores you find throughout southern Louisiana: lots of Formica tables, industrial chairs, plenty of paper napkins delivered with your food, and Lazy Susans holding as many as ten different kinds of spices and sauces. Some Louisiana-themed memorabilia and a swamp mural add a touch of kitsch to the place.