Like the opening of a great opera, antipasti sets the stage for the proper Italian feast to come. It precedes the primo piatto and it’s still today an integral part of our Sunday night dinner at Grammy and Baba’s. A great excuse to try something new or be creative, an ambitious antipasta can even steal the show. Here are some guidelines I follow when preparing antipasti.
Pick a theme. A theme provides a unifying element that tells a story of flavor, place, or season. Our parish auction item, La Sagra di Limoncello, or The Feast of Limoncello, in which we make limoncello with our patrons, featured a mammoth “Antipasti di Terra e Mare”, or Antipasta of Land and Sea: cured meats and cheeses, fresh veggies, delicacies of the sea.
Pick a range of flavors. Mix some homemade items with fine store-bought products. Unless you can make killer coppa cola and smoked fish, concentrate on marinated vegetables or other do-able preparations. Want some ideas? Give me a call!
Presentation and plating. This is your opportunity for artful composition. Intersperse different colors and textures for aesthetic appeal. Decorate the plate with greens of all kinds and other items like a sprinkling of capers. Some antipasti won’t make great neighbors; for instance, I try to keep cheese from briny marinated items that may make it soggy or alter flavor.
Antipasta as a meal. Prepare many “small plates”—after all, antipasta is one of the original “small plates” courses—and serve them together family-style as one big, casual meal.