Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tips for Italians visiting Sao Paulo 2/2

Brazilian Mortadela sandwich
After talking about pizza tradition in Sao Paulo, here we are with new tips for Italians (or others!) visiting Sao Paulo who want to enjoy the Italian food in the city and who want to avoid any surprises.

Let’s talk today about Mortadella (only one L in Portuguese). According to Wikipedia, it's “a large Italian sausage or cold cut made of finely hashed/ground heat-cured pork sausage which incorporates at least 15% small cubes of pork fat (principally the hard fat from the neck of the pig). It's delicately flavored with spices, including whole or ground black pepper, myrtle berries, nutmeg, coriander, pistachios, jalapeños and/or olives.” It's similar to American bologna.

Italian Mortadella sandwich
Mortadella originated in Bologna and in Italy is sliced very very thin and served simply with bread, usually with rosetta or with pizza bianca.

Mortadella is now famous in Sao Paulo, too. The most well-known place to eat a mortadella sandwich is the Mercado Municipal (the large farmer's market in Sao Paulo), but many Italians know some of the best ways to serve it. It is definitely more mortadella than bread, often with up to 250 grams of mortadella in just one sandwich. Most places add cheese and mustard, and offer the option of having cooked mortadella. In the picture, you can see the difference.

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Both styles of mortadella sandwiches are very good, but each country has its own sort of national taste. In Italy, a sandwich with mortadella is just bread and mortadella, as a sandwich with prosciutto is usually just bread with ham. According to Italians, it's not a good idea to cover the flavor of the meat with sauces. Also, a sandwich is almost never considered a lunch or dinner, but just a snack, so it must be kept light. In Brazil, you can have lunch with a mortadella sandwich and probably you won’t be hungry for dinner either. In Brazil, the sauce and cheese are more important in the sandwich,. Also, because of their size, you may want to share one if you're not too hungry. The most important advice about a Brazilian mortadella sandwich is to try the one sold at the Mercado Municipal. This is the place where you can eat the sandwich Brazilian style, or the way it's eaten in any market in Bologna, the sandwich's “hometown” in Italy.


  1. I am a native Paulistano and really enjoy your blog, but please allow me to respecfully correct you on this specific mention of "differences" in the way Mortadela is eaten in Italy and Sao Paulo.
    First of all, Mortadela is nothing new to Paulistanos, it has been a popular food item for over a century.
    The immigrants fresh off the boats received a Mortadela sandwich first thing when they arrived in Sao Paulo over a century ago.
    Paulistas and Brazilians actually do eat Mortadela with bread alone, no cheeses and no sauces or even mustard, this is a new thing.
    The first time I ever saw Mortadela with cheese or anything else besides bread was in the "touristy" area of the Mercadao Municipal.
    If you go around Sao Paulo and Brazil to the local bakeries, people eat Mortadela with bread alone, nothing else.

  2. I also never heard of Mortadela with Jalapenos, Are you refering to Brazil or Italy on this specific item?
    I love Jalapenos, but it is so hard to find them in Sao Paulo, only canned and imported :(

  3. Hi Ray and Gil,I am happy you read our blog and you enjoy it. Thank you for the remarks, but I (Annalisa) am Italian (born in Italy, not Brazilian with Italian origin - I am the gringa of the Inside Sao Paulo team) and when I wrote this post I had in mind the Italian way of eating mortadella. You are right, in all bakeries you can find just bread with mortadela, but since the most famous is the mercadao style, I thougt interesting to warn Italians on what kind of sandwich they will find there.
    For Jalapenos, I am not refering to Italy neither to Brazil. It is just the Wikepedia definition, I suppose somewhere in the world you can find this kind of mortadella.
    Keep on following us, there will more "tips for Italian" and keep writing us! We love to receive readers' comments

  4. Dear Annalisa,

    Thanks for your explanation, I agree with you, if you are warning Italians visiting Sao Paulo, it was a good tip and makes sense, those places at Mercado do load their sandwiches with all kinds of things.
    By the way, Gil and I live in Providence, Rhode Island, we have lots of Italians around here, so thank God we can find all kinds of things from Italy that we love so much.
    When visiting an Italian Bakery in Providence called "Roma" we saw Mortadela with Pistachio, with Prociutto, with Almonds and other things.
    Mortadela in Sao Paulo was always very simple, the only thing I ever saw in a Mortadela was peppercorn. Is this a new thing in Italy? or have Italians always put all kinds of things in their Mortadela?
    We also have a blog where we write about Brazil, Sao Paulo, Italians and life in the US, if you want to check us out here is the link:


  5. Hi Ray,

    Mortadella with pistacchio is very traditional in Italy, as well as with peppercorn.These two kinds are old style. Than it is also true that every region in Italy has very different gourmet tradition, so I can't exclude that somewhere in the country mortadella is produced with other ingredients.
    I am too curious to read your blog now, let's keep in touch and thanks for commenting.