Whether you are just going to be cooking for yourself, your family, or a whole dinner party – serving Italian appetizers is an easy way to guarantee everyone will be happy. The list of Italian appetizers is long, varied, and full of delicious recipes.
In the Italian language, an appetizer is called an “antipasto.” The word literally means before (anti) the meal (pasto).
At restaurants in Italy, these dishes are often pre-made and maintained at room temperature so that they can be served quickly after the diner orders their meal. Then once the appetizer is served, the pace of the meal becomes deliberately quite slow.
Appetizers in Italy
Narrowing down this list can be a difficult task, we normally end up serving at least two different types of appetizers in Italy because we can’t just choose one. And here we have done some of the hard work for you and have narrowed the list of Italian appetizers down to our 15 favorites.
Once you have had this dip once, you will want to have it as a starter with every meal you have in the future. We’re serious about that. Caponata is a dish from the beautiful Isle of Sicily.
The main ingredient is eggplant – but it also includes onions, bell pepper, celery, tomatoes, olives, and capers. It is savory, salty, and has a distinctively Mediterranean flavor.
This dish is best served with fresh, homemade, crispy bread and maybe some creamy cheeses. It can be had on its own or you could include it in an Antipasto platter. Once this dip has been made it can be kept for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Most people don’t associate kababs or skewers with Italy but they have some unmissable Kabab recipes – like their Spiendini recipe.
Spiendini is a meat skewer that includes spicy breaded beef, fresh onions, and sweet currants. It offers a perfect combination of sweet and spicy flavors while being light enough to serve all year round.
The breadcrumb mixture that the beef is cooked in is normally made up of a combination of breadcrumbs, classic Italian herbs, and a block of rich and smoky cheese – pecorino Romano cheese is our favorite cheese to use for this recipe.
Spiedini is traditionally made in the oven, however, more modern versions of the recipe have been designed to make barbecuing the skewers possible. However, using the oven is the traditional method.
If you can think about Bruschetta (pronounced; brew-SKET-tah, and not brew-SHET-tah) without your stomach rumbling then you are a stronger person than us. We cannot get enough of this appetizer, and we will serve it at least 2 times a week.
What makes Bruschetta even better is that it tastes like it should have taken an hour to prepare, when really it will only take a beginner 10 minutes to make. And if you make it as frequently as we do, you will probably get it down to about 5 minutes of preparation time.
The trick to making the best Bruschetta is to carefully pick out the tomatoes you want to use. When we can, we like to use fresh tomatoes from our garden, if they are not available then we opt for PachinoTomatoes, which is a variety of Cherry Tomato.
Italian Meatballs – Polpette
We won’t hear anything about other types of European meatballs, because the Italian recipe is the best. Italian meatballs are usually served as a main alongside a huge bowl of spaghetti. However, they don’t have to be limited to just a main, they make a perfect appetizer.
When serving Italian meatballs as an appetizer, you will want to cook 4-5 smallish meatballs for each person at the dinner table. You should also then create a bit of tomato and chili sauce for your guests to dip the meatballs in.
We like to serve the meatballs on cocktail sticks, to make them feel more like an appetizer, but you could just as easily allow your guests to use a fork
You will struggle to find a bread fan that doesn’t recognize the supremacy of the Focaccia. It is the perfect tear and share bread for a family brunch or even for a dinner party.
Focaccia is such a great bread because it can be flavored in any way. You can make sweet Focaccia with currants, chocolate, or even poached apricots.
You can also make a wide range of savory Focaccias – using traditional Mediterranean flavors like olives and roast onions, or try something a little different like wild garlic and feta. We highly recommend that you cook your own Focaccia.
It does take a little time to perfect the recipe, but in the short term and the long term the effort will be well worth it. The look on your guests’ faces when you pull the loaf out of the oven will be more than enough of a reward.
Italian Green Beans
This is a simple recipe, but it will change the way you view green beans. We will be the first to admit that we didn’t get the hype around the legumes until we tried the Italian take on green beans. This recipe is proof that our life motto “parmesan makes everything better” is very true.
This recipe has a healthy serving of parmesan, bread crumbs, traditional Italian herbs, garlic, and butter – can you think of anything better.
This is not the healthiest appetizer in the world, but it is well worth the calories when it is served piping hot and straight from the frying pan.
Italian Pizza Bites
This is another mini take on a classic Italian main course. Italian Pizza Bites are a mini version of Italian Pizza rolls, which in turn are a modern take on the traditional Italian Pizza.
What is so good about Italian Pizza bites? Well, they offer all the joys and flavors of a traditional Italian pizza – in just one or two bites (depending on how hungry you are).
These pizza bites take around 20 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes to cook – but they will only last for around 2 minutes once you start handing them out at the dinner table. We recommend picking yourself up a mini muffin baking tray to get the best out of a Pizza Bite recipe.
Eggplant Parmesan Poppers
Poppers are an American form of mini, spicy food that is usually stuffed with meat or cheese. These Eggplant Parmesan Poppers are an Italian take on a classic American dish.
Sign us up! Eggplant is a key ingredient in Mediterranean cooking, however, most of the rest of the world really doesn’t make very good use of it in their cooking. Let’s change that with this Italian American fusion recipe.
Who doesn’t want to indulge in eggplant covered in cheese breadcrumbs with a spicy dipping sauce? If you make them for a dinner party, these vegetarian snacks won’t last long.
The trick to perfectly cooking Eggplant Parmesan Poppers is to cut the eggplant into as evenly sized pieces as you possibly can. This will help them to cook evenly and will prevent the bigger pieces from being stodgy and raw in the middle.
Italian Tomato Salad
If you have grown up eating American cuisine then you probably associate the word salad with the word boring. This is not the case for Mediterranean salads, particularly Italian salads. Once you have sampled this Italian Tomato Salad, your views on salads will be changed forever.
This starter is vegetarian, vegan, it fits into the whole 30 and keto diets – so, where you have a range of different diets at a dinner party this is going to be a winner with everyone. Again, the key to the most delicious Italian Tomato Salad is picking out the most sumptuous tomatoes you can find.
Three different types of cheese, garlic, figs, fresh basil, pine nuts… oh dear, it is getting hard to concentrate on writing this article. But seriously, if you are a fan of the finer things in life then you will need to try this Tuscan Truffle recipe.
These Truffles are very rich, so we like to serve them on an Antipasto platter rather than just on their own. But they also make a perfect after dinner treat if you are serving cheese and coffee at the end of the meal.
This might just be the easiest recipe on this list – all you will have to do is chop up all the ingredients and then mix them together in a bowl before refrigerating them for a few hours. Not eating them before they are ready is the hardest part of cooking Tuscan Truffles.
We know another salad, but trust us, there really is no such thing as a boring Italian salad.A really good Antipasto salad is going to contain a combination of fresh ingredients with ingredients that have been dried, pickled, or stored in oil.
This will give you an interesting combination of flavors and textures. We promise you, you will never get bored while eating an Antipasto Salad.
Traditionally, an Antipasto salad contains ingredients like tuna, capers, peppers, olives, tomatoes, and sundried tomatoes. If you know that someone in your family or one of your guests don’t like one of these ingredients then you can customize the appetizer.
Don’t forget to add a healthy helping of cheese to your salad.
These are mini Calzones with a twist (both a physical twist and a twist in the recipe – see what we did there!) If you like to make your own pastry then this recipe will allow you to show off your skills. However, if you are a fan of the frozen, pre-made pastry then this recipe will also work well for you.
This recipe is also incredibly easy to customize, you can make vegetarian and vegan versions of this recipe too. It is so easy to make, you will just need to combine your ingredients and then wrap them up in your pastry and bake.
As tempting as it will be to eat these as soon as they come out of the oven, it is important that you allow them time to cool before serving.
This is a more filling twist on the classic Italian dish, the Caprese Salad. Any recipe that allows us to use mozzarella, basil, and tomato together is a win in our recipe book. Whenever we serve this appetizer, we go out of our way to find the creamiest mozzarella and the freshest basil to bake on our flatbreads.
Because they are getting baked, you can get away with using less fresh tomatoes – this is a great recipe for getting rid of tomatoes that have gone past their best.
If you want to make your own pesto for this dish then we highly recommend it – you can use a family recipe or use any of the delicious pesto recipes on this site.
Cheese and rice stuffed balls that fall apart in your mouth… It’s a good thing that we’re close to the end of this article because we are starving!
If you have not had an Arancini Ball before then you need to make sure you serve this delicious appetizer at your next dinner party. We think they make a perfect partner for Italian meatballs.
You can customize this recipe however you like, but we struggle to move away from the traditional sweet pea and ham stuffed Arancini Balls that we are used to. However, we did try a set of pesto-stuffed Arancini Balls that changed our life.
An Antipasto Platter is the ultimate Italian appetizer – being able to enjoy a charcuterie board is one of the main perks of being an adult. Your Antipasto Platter can take whatever form you like. They are traditionally made up of cured meats, sun dried vegetables, and cheeses.
However, after reading this list, you may be tempted to populate your Antipasto Platter with some of the other recipes from this article.
The best Antipasto boards have a theme – whether they are based around an area in Italy or around a particularly delicious ingredient. You could even theme the platter around a certain shape – truffles, meatballs, and Arancini balls on a platter anyone?