It may sound strange, but I have noticed recently that when we sit down to enjoy antipasti as a family, something special happens.
Antipasti in Italy varies slightly by region but in my experience it has more to do with what is available seasonally.
In Southern Italy we tasted more fresh cheeses and fish during antipasti. In Northern Italy, we have noticed more hard cheeses and savory tarts with elaborate sauces.
On the islands from Sicily to Elba, more shellfish makes it way onto various platters. There are some consistencies, however, and those are succulent cured meats, buttery brined olives, and peppery pickled vegetables.
Our kids have tried so many new foods during antipasti simply because there was no pressure and they could pick and choose. They have sampled things like black truffle butter, white truffle oil, fried sardines, wild boar ragu, and pickled eggplant just to name a few.
I think even more than what is on the platter, is how it is prepared and presented. Typically it is a combination of store bought and home or locally made items. Anything goes as long as there is consideration given to what will come after the antipasti course. It is designed to relax and excite the palate, not satiate.
The presentation we have seen in Italy is typically a smattering of small plates and bowls rather than a large platter. Bowls of seasonal fruits and candied nuts are often used to fill in the gaps between dishes. It is also common to invite friends or meet for antipasti and then go separate ways for dinner.
What makes this time of day so special?
- I think it is because it is the perfect way to organize around food with ease.
- I think it is because it is whimsical and no two tables look the same.
- I think it is because everyone is free to choose what they like.
- I think it is because it is beautiful.
- I think it is because there are very few rules involved.
- I think it is because it is engaging.
- I think it is because it is plentiful without being overwhelming.
- I think it is because there is something for everyone.
- I think it is because there is always enough.
If you think I am over thinking this, indulge yourself and see how you feel. It is as if it is the main event but no one wants to call it that because then there would be a formality to this course that would be limiting and rigid.
Antipasti means simply, “before the meal” but for those that have experienced it, it means so much more.
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