R.S. Maceo and
his son Ronnie built an intriguing enterprise of their Maceo’s Spice and Import
Co. that’s near 27th and Market Street in Galveston.
And while I admit that I used to go in there to primarily visit and talk about
old times with Mr. R.S., before he passed away, rarely did I leave without at
least one freshly made muffaletta wrapped up tight in white sandwich paper and
tucked into a brown paper bag.
muffaletta sandwich was the invention of a Sicilian immigrant who opened a small
grocery in New Orleans in 1906. His name was Anthony Lavoi. He would take the
broken olive pieces and oil from the bottom of the barrels in his store, spread
them on a round baguette, add some thinly sliced morta della, mozzarella, salami,
provolone and ham, then douse the whole thing with a mixtures of red wine vinegar,
olive oil and finely chopped garlic. The Italians call those crusty round rolls,
“muffas.” Lavoi called his sandwich a muffaletta.
Almost from the day
Lavoi concocted and sold his first sandwich, one old Sicilian after another tried
to claim it as his own invention. But there is one general consensus. It obtained
its notoriety at the Central Grocery on New Orleans’ Decatur Street., and it’s
still sold there today.
Anthony Lavoi was the great-uncle of R.S. Maceo,
Sr., and Maceo’s has got the original recipe. And it’s from that original recipe
that most days Ronnie makes muffalettas for sale at his store.
the authentic muffaletta from the copy is the recipe for the sandwich spread that
we afficionados refer to as “olive salad.” It’s one of those things you either
make right or it’s wrong. There’s no such thing as reasonably OK olive salad.
And the muffaletta has to be made with a muffa roll.
The only thing missing
at Maceo’s is Barq’s root beer, and for all I know it could be that Barq’s isn’t
even made any more. Nevertheless, in the old days, a Barq’s was to a muffaletta
what a beer is to a pretzel.
Maceo’s father was Frank Maceo. Frank Maceo and his brothers Rose and Sam were
the three operating partners of the Turf Athletic Club and Gulf Properties. That
empire included the Hollywood Diner Club; the Balinese
Room; the Turf Grill, Studio Lounge and Western Room; the famous beachfront
carousel known as The Derby; the Sliver Moon; the Beach Amusement Park and a number
of other night clubs and entertainment spots in Galveston county.
Maceo graduated from Kirwin High School in 1935 at 17, and went to pitch professional
baseball for the Oklahoma team. After a year, his appendix ruptured, and the owners
didn’t renew his contract. He returned to Galveston
and learned to deal cards at the Balinese
He married gorgeous Dorothy Reyner who had a dance studio on
the corner of 25th Street and Avenue N. Before Mr. R.S. passed away this year,
he and Miss Dorothy had celebrated more than seventy years of marriage.
In 1944 Mr. R.S. opened Maceo Seafood on the Galveston
wharves, and for the next 28 years his boats combed the gulf for shrimp, fish
and crab. Not only did Maceo Seafood supply all of the Maceo restaurants, but
refrigerated railroad cars and trucks were packed and the products were wholesaled
to vendors and restaurants in places like Houston,
Dallas, Chicago, even Boston and New
Quite often each of his boats would return with 18,000 to 20,000
pounds of shrimp at the end of a day of trolling. It was a big enterprise.
then the hauls began to diminish, and Mr. R.S. told me during one of our visits
that he could see the handwriting on the wall. It was time to get out, so he sold
his shrimp boats and his business and then took over for his family as the manager
of the Turf Grill, and later the Blue Room.
began importing and packaging spices for restaurants, and his little enterprise
began a steady growth, and that was solely because his spices were very fresh,
whereas most of the competition’s were shopworn by the time they reached the consumer.
A few years back, his son Ronnie, a well-known restaurant operator, joined
him and together they made Maceo’s a major imported food and spice supplier.
Maceo family are all talented Italian cooks. Each has his speciality. Mr. R.S.’s
was his pasta gravy recipes. Customers can purchase jars of those various gravies
at Maceo’s and other fine food groceries.
I love Mr. R.S.’s spaghetti
gravy. That first bite of pasta smothered with his sauce over a few meatballs
takes me back to my childhood, a time when Galveston
and its people had great style and flair, and the Maceo family did a great deal
to make it that way.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Cherry's Galveston Memories
November 15, 2009 column
William S. Cherry. All rights reserved