The difference between antipasti, antipasto, and anti pasta is subtle. I have had hundreds of variations of these appetizer platters, and I’ve enjoyed variations of them across all regions of Italy.
It’s often outside of Italy, where this needs clarification, I’ll explain all this in detail as a purveyor of antipasti, salumi, salami and charcuterie.
Antipasta does not mean anything at all.
Since antipasti and antipasto are associated with cured meats and salumi.
Charcuterie is a modern word for what was called an ‘appetizer’ or meat & cheese platter in the 1980s.
First, here is a quick answer – then more below.
Difference Between Antipasti, Antipasto & Antipasta?
Antipasto is singular and relates to one portion. Antipasti is plural and relates to multiple portions. Antipasta is a misinterpretation of the Italian language and does not have any meaning.
Antipasto and Antipasti translate to ‘pre-meal‘ basically (wiki link here). It pretty much always includes cured meats, cheeses, and preserved vegetables.
Antipasto is ‘singular’ referring to one portion. Antipasti is ‘plural’, which refers to more than one.
Antipasta is a misinterpretation of the Italian language and doesn’t mean anything, yes I got it wrong for a long time!
The Italians are kings of food and of course, we know it is the epicenter of culture and family cohesion across Italy.
After driving around Italy for three months recently (5,000 miles/10,000 km approx) I got a sense of appreciation for how important food is to the culture. It is the cornerstone of what they’re passionate about in Italy.
Luckily, we stayed with a lot of Italian people who became friends even to this day (the website work away is an awesome way to exchange accommodation/food for cultural experiences – if you’re middle-aged, older, or younger – some 80-year-old guys use it!). Even during the informal dining we had, antipasto or some kind of charcuterie board was always presented pre-meal with cured meats & cheeses.
So I want to get stuck into what antipasti and the antipasto are all about and give a bit more detail about it and possibly why it’s so important to Italians (well from personal theory and observations I have made.
Why is there Antipasti/Antipasto in Detail
There is the old biblical term for ‘breaking bread‘, and I think there are parallels to the antipasti that is enjoyed in Italy and throughout the world today.
Sharing to ‘Break the Ice’
When I think about sharing, it’s all about sharing at the start of the meal- if you’re sharing something together you have a sense of being connected more with the people you’re with. Rather than having your own plate of food to guard and eat individually.
I have felt the same kind of feeling, now that I think about it when devouring Korean BBQ, Chinese steamboat & Dim Sim, or a French fondue. These are all social cook or eat-a-shared-plate types of interactions.
And I am sure there are a bunch more out there I am yet to try.
In English Antipasti/Antipasto is an ‘Appetizer’
Probably the easiest way to think about it, or it’s just the easiest way for me to think about it.
It is a shared appetizer at the start of the meal, so many of the Italian antipasto experiences we have had end up being so big, that we are pretty much full after the appetizer. Italians know how to eat big!
Or if you’re going to a bar for an apertivo- which is tapa-style light food that comes out with a hopefully, slightly more expensive drink before a full dinner (you have to seek out the good ones in Italy).
Again, we had aperitivo’s that filled us up for the night!
Formal Breakdown Italian Courses
Antipasto is a singular word referring to one, in the Italian language they have masculine and feminine words, so antipasto is masculine.
Antipasti is plural – more than one.
Antipasta is people miss-hearing the word, or not understanding Italian.
Pasto in Italian means meal, and anti-, when translated, is before therefore antipasto means,
“before the meal“
Other names for Antipasti
In the modern context, across a lot of the world, charcuterie platter or board is used and it’s probably a little bit different since you’ll find crackers, fruit, pesto, spreads, chutney, and many other editions – in the modern context.
You are however highly unlikely to find any of this on antipasto boards in Italy (maybe in Rome or another big city though). I did write another post all about traditional French and Italian pre-meal appetizer boards, check out that post here.
Confusion with Pasta & Antipasta
Another theory that floats around is the word pasta is very Italian one knows that pasta ends with an a. It kind of makes sense that anti-pasta is ‘o’.
What to Put on an Antipasti or Antipasto Board/Platter
Here are some of my favorites and also some of the classics.
Before I go into list mode, I want to highlight what I see all the time in Italy
A regional type of Prosciutto was often on antipasti at somebody’s house or in a restaurant. (dry-cured whole leg of quality pork – often finished on nuts and whey – hopefully, with 12 months minimum of drying).
Parma Ham from Parma (yes I stayed in Parma, visited Parma factories, and ate my share of Parma in Parma). Parma is a light slightly sweet prosciutto protected by European law and they make sure the pigs, quality, and the process have been adhered to in a strictly traditional manner. Here is a link that explains it way better than me – (DOP – in Italian or PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) in English).
I can eat Parma until the preverbal “cows (or pigs) come home”, it’s what I would call session salumi. I heard the term “session” concerning craft beer and copied it.
Salumi (Which Includes Salami), Cured Meat
If you are looking to make or buy some of these I will put a few links in to guide you to decent resources either I have written about it or I can send you down the right track to order/eat or make it even!
Dry Cured Meat for an Antipasti Platter
|Prosciutto (Dry Cured Pork Leg)||Dry Cured Salami|
|Braesola (Dry Cured Beef)||Pancetta (Dry Cured Pork Belly)|
|Coppa (Dry Cured Upper Loin Neck Pork)||Mortadella (Emulsified salami)|
Cheeses and Marinated Vegetables
- Marinated Olives (in Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
- Preserved Courgettes (in Extra Virgin Olive Oil (not pickled)
- Here is a recipe
- To buy something decent online – check out these guys
I am of course always keen for variation, and the spice of life is, of course, trying new things. But specifically, I am all for the classics now and then as well.
History of Antipasti
From what I have read it dates back to medieval Europe, Italy. I need to read more to grasp a further depth of history around this.
Regional Variations of Antipasti
There is an overlapping of regions across northern Italy, ie. Austria. Which lends it tastes slightly more toward Central Europe.
However, it’s an area I need to explore more. Here are some examples I see across Northern Italy:
- Classic Basil Pesto
- Prosciutto de Parma
- Olive Tapenade
Around Parma in the region of Emilia-Romagna – food culture is prolific, with the province of Modena and the ‘real’ balsamic that is DOP and comes in 12 or 25-year bottles.
We did experience with a fantastic Italian man, I was lucky enough to taste a 50-year-old authentic Modena Balsamic that his father started when the son was born.
Here is a link to a 12-year Balsamic 12 year old that I brought back from Italy and gave to a close friend. To be real Modena balsamic, the shape of the bottle can only be this.
Then, of course, cullatello, and felino salami spring to mind – all from the same region.
12-month minimum (to 5 years) DOP Parmigiano-Reggiano is born in this region as well. Astonishing really.
Umbria / Tuscany
Very different, but quite similar in ways. I had all sorts of delicious cinghiale (wild boar – pronounced ‘shing-gaal-lee’) variations of cured meat and salumi in Umbria.
- Gorgonzola cheese (awesome Italian blue cheese)
- Fresh fennel
- seafood and cured meats of Tuscany (Tuscany has it all!)
The spicy influence of Africa and seafood surrounding the area come to party on the plate around here!
- Njuda – a spreadable salami of pork meat, pork fat, and Calabrian chillis (I left the area recently with 4 pounds of it from a home producer with pigs for friends and family!)
- Burrata – Think Mozzarella with rich cream inside
- Buffalo Mozzarella DOP
- Preserved Seafood – like white anchovies, and pickled octopus (especially in the Puglia region)
Sicily (it’s an Island South)
Considered to be contrasting to mainland Italy. The home of Godfather and the Mafia – Sicily is an amazing and fascinating place. I have only visited once for 3 weeks, driving around the coast.
Seafood is king and the African influences come out – antipasti is very ocean-orientated in my experiences.
Traditional Italy Meal Course
So many formal dinners, or even informal I have had in Italy or with Italians has had the full progression of course which is:
Aperitivo: a small dose of liqueur enjoyed before the meal, like Prosecco or Campari.
The antipasto: A traditional Italian meal starts with something to nibble on, called an antipasto, which translates into English as “before the meal.” It can include hot and cold appetizers like cheese, sopprasatta, bread, and dressed vegetables.
The primo: In Italy, pasta is a first course, or primo, served as an appetizer, not as the main event. Soup, rice, and polenta are the other options for the primo.
The secondo: The main course is called il secondo, or the second course. Chicken, meat, or fish are the usual choices, and portions are generally small. These main courses are usually fairly simple, especially if a rich pasta or rice dish precedes them.
The contorno: A platter of vegetables usually accompanies the main course. This side dish highlights the simple goodness of the vegetable.
The dolce: A dolce (or sweet) ends a traditional Italian meal.
Caffe: coffee and its permutations. A must with the dolce.
Digestivo: a “digestive” or after dinner liqueur like grappa and limoncello
THE CLASSIC ITALIAN MEAL STRUCTURE – http://www.speakitalian.org/the-classic-italian-meal-structure.html