"Antipasto" means, literally, "before the meal". It can be a little nibble or two, a platter of salami and cheese, or an extravaganza of a dozen or more delicious foods. It can be modest and humble or utterly luxurious. Sometimes it turns into an entire meal, especially outside on a hot summer night with good wine alongside. When Italia Coppola prepared her first meal for her in-laws, dinner began with antipasto, which Italia said was mostly hard-boiled eggs. Make your selections based on your personal taste and the number of people who will gather around the table.
Meats, allow about 3 ounces total for each guest
- Thinly sliced salami of choice (several types)
- Thinly sliced prosciutto
- Thinly sliced mortadella
- Thinly sliced coppa
- Anchovies in vinegar
- Italian canned tuna in olive oil
Cheeses, allow about 4 ounces total for each guest
- Mozzarella fresca
- Teleme or Talleggio
- Italian Fontina
- Hard-boiled eggs, one for each guest
- Deviled eggs, one or two for each guest
- Radishes, preferably French Breakfast radishes, with their greens
- Grilled whole favas
- Grilled or roasted asparagus spears
- Steamed artichokes, leaves separated and inner thistle removed
- Marinate artichoke hearts
- Cherry tomatoes, halved
- Small garden tomatoes, in wedges
- Roasted sweet peppers in olive oil and/or vinegar
- Celery spears filled with goat cheese, cream cheese or creme fraiche
- Pickled pepperoncini, drained
- Apricots, in season
- Fresh cherries, in season
- Cantaloupe or other muskmelon, in season, in wedges
- Fresh figs, in season
- Marcona almonds
- Freshly picked young almonds (in the spring)
- Brined or salted capers
- Olives of choice, about ¼ cup for each guest
- Hearth bread, sliced
- Ultra-premium extra-virgin olive oil
- Flake salt
- Black pepper in a mill
It is not practical to give specific directions for antipasto. It is an intuitive dish that is entirely dependent on how many people will be gathering around the table. For two or three, you might want a few slices of soppressata, a bowl of olives and some good bread.
If you're feeding a crowd, you can prepare several identical platters, each with the same items, or you can put each item on its own plate or platter, something you often see in restaurants. Staff take an order and then build the antipasto platter based on what guests have requested.
Choose vegetables and fruits that are in season. If you are adding nuts, olives or whole stone fruit, be sure to have bowls for the shells and pits.
Italia Coppola, who dedicated her book, Mammarella: Mama Coppola's Pasta Cookbook, to her mother Anna Pennino, to her husband Carmine and to her three children, August, Francis and Talia, who have inherited both the Neapolitan spirit and its cooking.