Italians are just great at grazing through food, simply stopping off for a coffee or an aperitif is always accompanied by a small dish of something tasty. The antipasto is not meant to cure your hunger but simply to titillate the taste buds so that you yearn for more. The Italian meal is not structured as many European and American meals, it does not have a starter, the main course and the dessert. Rather it all begins with the antipasto and then a series of dishes will follow that. The courses are typically called primero, secundo etc. Which could be a vegetable platter, a plate of fish, or a meat course. Rome is famed for its antipasto dishes and here are some of the greatest.
Prosciutto and Figs
Figs are a legendary delicacy that date back to ancient Rome, and because they could be dried, they were used the whole year around. Even today Rome’s elite trattorias serve figs at the end of the meal during summer. Delicious by themselves they are also perfect with salty prosciutto as an antipasto.
Not all Italian food is about fine dining, in fact most of the popular dishes in Italy come from very poor heritage and are basically farmhouse cooking. Bruschetta is one such dish and is simply toasted crusty bread, doused with olive oil, rubbed with garlic, and sprinkled with salt. Bruschetta alla Romana slightly changes the ingredients and adds fresh tomatoes and wild fennel.
One of the most loved antipasto dishes in Rome has to be Suppli, and now it can be found all over Italy with regional adaptations. Basically, it is a ball of rice, with some sort of stuffing. In Rome they favor raw eggs and tomato sauce. Most Suppli you find now will be stuffed with mozzarella, but there are variations that contain chicken livers.
Fava Beans & Pecorino
Only the Italians can take one simple ingredient such as beans and create something spectacular. Fava Beans or as they are sometimes known as Broad Beans were traditionally eaten around Easter time, consumed raw with liberal sprinklings of Pecorino Romano. It is a simple spring classic that needs no embellishments.
To say the least, anchovies are an acquired taste, but the Romans know how to use the strong salty taste to perfection. Just like most Italian food, anchovies were used out of necessity, as they were cheap. This strong but absolutely delicious antipasto is perfect to whet the appetite for something such as a plate of spaghetti.
Another dish that celebrates another simple ingredient, and in this case, it is olive oil. Cazzimperio is a dip made out newly harvested olives, pepper and salt. Normally placed in the middle of a serving plate, a small dish of the dip is surrounded by raw vegetable such as celery, carrots, tomatoes, radishes, artichokes, and fennel. Not just a delicious dish, it is really healthy and a perfect accompaniment to grilled fish, or roasted chicken.