The etymology of the Italian word antipasto is ‘anti’ meaning before and ‘pasto’ meaning meal. My Italian-Italian dictionary adds that they are served before the beginning of the true and proper meal.
So, how much can you eat right before you eat a ‘true and proper’ Italian meal? Remember that it consists of two courses, the primo or first course and the secondo or second course. The second course may have side dishes, contorni, and is often followed by the dolce, or sweet course.
The Italians I know have differing opinions about the correct number of antipasti (plural of antipasto) to be served at a ‘true and proper’ meal. Stefano of Cantina Bravi in the Garfagnana can’t bear to serve fewer than seven. Nor can Agriturismo L’Orto in Sardinia (if you count the olives).
Despite my begging her to reduce the number, Gabriella ignores me and continues to produce five at the seafood dinners she prepares for my salumi courses in Tuscany. Which would you choose?
Trattoria Lea in Città di Castello excelled themselves with eleven antipasti.
Returning to the dictionary, it says the antipasti are supposed to whet the appetite. Personally, I find more than one puts a damper on my appetite for the rest of the meal, and finally I’ve found some Italians who agree with me. I invited Marzia (one of my cheesemakers) and her husband to dinner last night. Since I figured one antipasto would never satisfy an Italian, I decided to serve three. A bit meagre, I knew. By the time we got to the secondo, a stuffed roast guinea fowl, they said they were already full. They declared that antipasti kill their appetites, and they could easily do without any. I must remind them next time my cheese course is at their house for dinner and they serve seven antipasti!
Back to my question: how many can you eat?
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This blog was originally published on Slow Travel Tours on 31 March, 2019.
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