Antipasto

by Amber Hayes on October 14, 2009

_MG_1446Before I start talking about my unconditional love for everything antipasto I must point out three important facts about Italians:

1.  The average Italian eats about half a pound of bread a day.
2.  The average Italian eats about 55 pounds of pasta a year.
3.  The average Italian drinks about 26 gallons of wine a year.

Being Italian myself, when I heard these facts I was astounded!  Every one of these facts is so true!  Italians love to eat and drink wine.  Many of you already know that the traditional Italian meal, in all its carbohydrate glory, consists of several courses beginning with the antipasto.

Antipasto, (antipasti in Italy) despite the fact that it sounds a lot like something that is against pasta altogether, actually means “before the meal” or “before the pasta.”  The antipasto always comes before the pasta and the meat course.  Now I am sure you are thinking, “well antipasto is the same thing as hors d’oeuvres.”  Not so fast my friend!  Antipasto is definitely different!

For starters (no pun intended):
Hors d’oeuvres is a French word meaning “before the works.”  It is much like an appetizer though in the culinary language hors d’oeuvres are little tidbits of food, savorings (or to get technical “savourings”), snacks that one nibbles before the main meal.  Having grown up in an Italian family and watching Italians eat antipasto in countless settings I can testify to the fact that they are not, and will never be, nibblers.

Another difference:
Antipasto is always served at the table before the meal.  The waiter, waitress, or Italian mama brings the platter of appetizers and individual plates to the table where it is then passed around between family and friends.  While hors d’oeuvres can be served at the table, they are also very commonly served a la waiters and waitresses who are circulating a party with their silver platters.  Now I don’t know about you, but circulating appetizers is a cause for competition as you try to nonchalantly chase down the waiter or waitress, hoping to beat the rest of the guests to the last slider on the platter.  (See my post on sliders for the inside scoop).  Not to mention, I wish I could say eating while standing is a skill of mine, but unfortunately it generally ends in something being spilled down the front of my dress.  I definitely prefer my “before meal” to be brought to me at the table where I am guaranteed a turn at the goodness and a clean outfit.

Wait, there is more:
Unlike antipasto, which is always served cold, hors d’oeuvres can be hot or cold.  At an hors d’oeuveres-ish party you may find cold salmon decorated with a dill sprig or a hot, flaky roll with some mystery meat inside making its way around the party.  Antipasto plates will always have cold meats, cold cheeses (thank goodness), cold peppers, etc.

The biggest, and most important difference:
The food itself!  In its true Italian style, setting it completely apart from our fancy French hors d’oeuvres, a traditional antipasto plate needs…

  • Cured meats (mortadella which is a cured sausage, different types of salami, prosciutto which is also know as parma ham in Italy, capicola which is the same as coppa.)
  • Cheese (fresh mozzarella, thick and moist, provolone)
  • Olives (generally Kalamata, but often black olives)
  • Marinated Peppers (roasted red or pepperoncini)

I definitely recommend making an antipasto platter of your own.  And if you are thinking of inviting some Italians, a full bread-basket or two would be very welcomed and quickly eaten.  So grab family and friends and serve up some appetizers, Italian style.

Often welcomed additions to antipasto: Tomatoes and fresh basil!

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{ 1 comment }

Gina Moroney October 14, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Bravo!! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Being second generation Italian, I can tell you that we ARE passionate about sitting around the table with a good antipasto and colorful conversation. And we do like it in good sized quantities…we don’t nibble in our family!! So your comments warm my heart and send me to the market to get what I need for a good antipasto tonight. Graci

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