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Beyond Food Borders: Eating Italy's Mortadella Sandwich in Sao Paolo, Brazil

On your stroll in São Paulo’s historic center, the sight of an ornate, vaulted building with stained glass may stop you in your tracks. O Mercadão, as it’s known, is large and imposing, inviting you to take a closer look. Once inside, you'll find plenty of wonders to stock your kitchen.

The market was built around 1930 and renovated in 2003/2004. It covers more than 12,000 square meters and houses an impressive number of wares and produce. More than just Brazil's famous fruits or typical vegetables (like manioc), the public market is a good place to go when searching for luxury foods. Think classic wines from France, Europe’s fabulous cheeses and chocolate, and Italian sausages.

When you're ready for lunch, take your pick at any of the restaurants in the food court on the second floor. Here you can eat all kinds of set meals, snacks like pasteis and empanadas (try one with a palm heart filling), and fried finger foods like Bolinho de bacalhau, a typical Brazilian snack. 

But if you are in the company of a Paulista friend, you will probably end up at Bar do Mané. The reason Paulistas keep returning here, whether when shopping at the market or for lunch when working in the city, is not to eat Brazilian but Italian food; namely, the mortadela sandwich. 

Its formula is so successful that you will find the sandwich on the menu upstairs as well (the Hocca Bar is famous for it too), but Bar do Mané is the place where the mortadela sandwich was first created. According to the story, once upon a delicious time, a customer complained about the sandwich not having enough cold cuts. His remark was heeded, amends were made, and the customer was subsequently so content that he kept coming back, asking for the same. When other customers saw what he was eating, they wanted it too, and the killer mortadela sandwich was born.

Mortadella originates from Bolgona (Italy) and is finely ground pork mixed with high-quality fat (the little white cubes you see after the mortadella has been sliced), salt, and a selection of spices such as pepper, coriander, and anise, plus myrtle berries and pistachios. 

On your mortadela sandwich you will get more than half a pound of this sliced and grilled deli meat. It's topped with a layer of cheese and may be flavored with vinaigrette. Depending on where you eat it there may be minor variations on the sandwich. Oh, and don’t forget to order a chopp – draft beer – with it. Enjoy!

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