If you want to really enjoy an Italian feast, you have to start with antipasti. These savoury dishes served at the start of an Italian meal whet your appetite and give you a taste of all sorts of different flavours.
Typical antipasti dishes include everything from specially cured meats, olives, sweet and spicy pepperoncini, pickled vegetables and different types of cheese. Every Italian restaurant worth its spaghetti will serve antipasti, just like they do at Pasta Oro in Paris, Strasbourg's Square Delicatessen and Grenoble-based Comptoir Italien Poldo. We think you might find it difficult to stop at just a couple of mouthfuls though.
Antipasti dishes should excite your palate, not fill you up. Everything from small dishes to stunning platters are a feast for the senses, and provide inspiration for the courses to come. Take Pasta Oro's Prosciutto Crudo Di Faeto Con Maltagliati Di Pizza – salty cured ham from Puglia wrapped around crisp soldiers of pizza dough, simply fragranced with rosemary.
As a name, 'antipasti' comes from the Latin ante (before), and pastus (meal). And the way Italians serve up these smaller dishes goes back to medieval times, when sugared nuts and sliced meats were served to entice diners before the main course. Even if you don't think you're hungry, you will be after sampling all the delights on offer.
While Comptoir Italian Poldo offers a mighty platter called the Caponata – stacked up high with aubergines, juicy green olives, pine nuts, capers, celery, onions, tomato sauce, and balsamic vinegar – their real calling card is arancini. Break these little risotto balls open to reveal surprising fillings like spinach, speck and oozy béchamel, or ham and mozzarella.
Pasta Oro's antipasti Carpaccio Di Manzo, Rucola, Grana E Riduzione Di Balsamico is another awesome way to start a meal, with paper thin slices of beef, fresh, peppery rocket, delicate shavings of Grana Padano and zingy balsamic vinegar. Vegetarians can get stuck in too, with stuffed aubergines or Burrata D'Andria with grilled vegetables.
Square Delicatessen is all about sharing platters – and the guys here know a thing or two about crafting a board bursting with flavour. Their Antipasti Végétarienne is also a sight for sore eyes – or empty stomachs. Black and greens olives, sundried tomatoes and marinated vegetables come together with buffalo mozzarella and gorgonzola, all served up with rosemary and parmesan crackers.
In the mood to whet your appetite with antipasti? Have a look at Deliveroo's Italian restaurants in your area, and order now.