Antipasto? Antipasti? Understanding the Start of an Italian Meal
In most restaurants, you may see an “appetizer” or “starter” section on the menu. In an authentic Italian restaurant, you’ll see a section called antipasto or antipasti instead.
This is a course on the Italian menu that dates back to Roman times. Even back then, cooks and hosts were serving small portions of food before the meal. Today, the antipasto course is seen as an important part of the meal. It starts off dinners and is considered by many Italian chefs to aid in digestion and to prepare the stomach for the meal.
What Is Antipasto?
Antipasti is actually the plural form of antipasto. This course usually involves:
- A traditional platter: A traditional platter of antipasto will usually include salumi — or charcuterie, cold cuts, vegetables, bread and other edibles.
- Crudo: Some menus allow you to order crudo alone. Crudo is an Italian word for raw and can be uncooked items such as meat, seafood or fresh vegetables cut thinly, sometimes served with a sauce or garnish.
- Sott’aceto: This antipasto dish consists of pickled vegetables kept in vinegar and spiced for flavor. Another popular pickled vegetable dish is Giardiniera.
- Sott’olio: This antipasto is roasted or grilled vegetables preserved in olive oil and spices.
- Stuffed cherry peppers: In Sicily, a popular starter dish includes pickled red peppers stuffed with a filling of anchovies, cheese or capers or tuna.
- Coccoli: Most popular in Tuscany, these are pieces of deep-fried dough, usually served with soft cheese and prosciutto.
- Potato dischetti: These potato discs are topped with savory flavors, often capers or anchovies and spices.
- Cheeses: Local fresh cheeses are often served with antipasti.
- Seafood: In Italian regions near the coast or lakes, octopus, fish and other seafood may be served as part of the start of a meal.
- Artichokes: Steamed and pickled artichokes are part of many antipasto platters.
- Grilled olives: These can be served as part of a platter or with bread.
In Italy, antipasto is served at the table, not as a finger food before guests are seated. The type of antipasto served will often depend on the region and the season. Seasonal ingredients are common, so chefs may switch from local crudo in summer to pickled Giardiniera in winter.
In the south of Italy, cured meats and fish are traditionally served as antipasto. In the north, mushrooms, freshwater fish and different meats will usually be on the menu. The cheeses will also vary depending on regional tradition and specialty.
No matter where you eat antipasti, it’s a great start to an Italian meal. It primes your stomach and allows you to enjoy the full experience of Italian cooking. Just keep in mind this course represents only the start of the meal. Portions are small, and you still need to save room for the courses to come.
Are you curious about antipasto? Reserve a table at Bricco, the premiere Italian and Mediterranean dining experience in Harrisburg. Enjoy classic Italian dishes and authentic Italian food, including antipasti offerings, in a beautiful atmosphere with attentive service.
Category: Food Stories