There’s a meaty new pop-up in town serving up a particular type of big sandwich not so often seen in San Francisco — the muffuletta. It’s from one half of the duo behind Bread Spread Pickle, another pandemic era pop-up from a couple who previously worked at the Progress. This new muffuletta one-stop-shop is called Sandy’s: the work of Peterson Harter, chef, bartender, surfer, New Orleans native, and a man who knows and loves a good beer and a big sandwich.
At this late stage in the pandemic, one might ask: Will the snack dinner trend fade? Is the big sandwich obsession over? Then again, can we ever have too many big sandwiches? Especially when we’re talking three types of meat, as well as cheese, and spicy pickled vegetables taking it over the top. Let’s talk muffuletta.
Harter grew up in New Orleans, and says his mom inspired his love of cooking, and his dad Sandy was the sandwich guy. Harter says muffuletta are everywhere in New Orleans, and to him, the best hit the right combo of meat, and they’re all about the bread. Bread Spread Pickle was already making both bread and pickles, and one week they accidentally made too much giardiniera, so Harter hacked it up and added olives. The bread took more trial and error, as they tried to bake it in traditional rounds about 12 to 14 inches wide, and overshot it at first — early tests were monstrosities. “The first time we did it, it was delicious, but it was comically large. Nobody’s mouth is that big … we worked on the proportions, and we have it dialed in now, so you get the perfect bite every bite.”
And now, after extensive testing and many one-sided arm workouts on the meat slicer, Harter says the muffuletta is ready. It’s a meaty experience: in this writer’s estimation it’s 75 percent filling to 25 percent bread. Harter likes a combo of sopressata, mortadella, prosciutto, and provolone, and he slices them quite thin to get a tight stack. The olive salad is a mix of kalamatas and pickled cauliflower and carrots, again chopped fairly fine. And the bread is sturdy enough that it can hold up to that slick of olive oil and vinegar. It’s a serious sandwich that punches salty, fatty, pleasantly bitter, and a little spicy, and Harter and his dad are right, you better eat it with a beer, so the bubbles can cleanse between bites.
A good muffuletta can be hard to find in San Francisco. It appears on sandwich menus around town occasionally, but it’s not widespread. The old-school Italian-American sandwich shops like Lucca in the Marina or Molinari in North Beach have plenty of Italian combos, many with pickled peppers or sundried tomatoes, piled on our favorite Dutch crunch. But neither specifically has a muffuletta on the menu, at least not these days.
However, in related sandwich news, it is notably the second time this pandemic that San Franciscans have gotten obsessed with an iconic regional sandwich that broke on the scene. What Sandy’s is going to be for the New Orleans muffuletta, Palm City is already throwing down for the Philly-style hoagie. And no matter where you grew up, it’s fun to see these chefs go deep on their hometown sandwiches. “It’s nice to have something comforting after this past year,” Harter says of the big sandwich obsession. “It’s nice to have something that hits close to home.”
Sandy’s launches preorders today, for pickup this Saturday, April 17, from noon to 4 p.m. at Maison Corbeaux/London Market in Laurel Heights. When they sell out, do not despair, this is the first pop-up in a series, and there will be more weekend dates, although locations may vary. Bread Spread Pickle is closing for now, and Harter says he’s not sure if and when it will return. His partner Moni Frailing will be pitching in behind the scenes on Sandy’s, but neither chef feels too pressed to go back in-house at a full-time restaurant job yet.