Italians famously serve simple ingredients with rich flavours, and antipasto is the perfect example. Literally meaning “before the meal,” antipasto encompasses a variety of hot or cold appetizers, including charcuterie, fresh fruit and raw or marinated vegetables, cheeses, olives, pickles, jams, breads and crackers.
No matter the occasion, one trip to the store is all you need to personalize your antipasto selection to fit the celebration. With a buffet of nibbles available from the deli, cheese and produce departments, you can switch up your offerings every time! Even better, there’s no cooking required and cleanup is easy.
A basic selection of antipasto can include meat, cheese, and a fruit or vegetable. Each ingredient has a world of possibilities that add interest and appeal, so mix and match your favourites.
Meat: Think cured or smoked meats like prosciutto, salami, chorizo and pepperoni. These salty-smokey bites are a contrasting (but perfect) pairing to the sweetness of the fruit.
Cheese: Traditional options include Cheddar, Gruyère, aged Gouda or Manchego. Also consider including a cheese that’s seasonal or uniquely-flavoured to spark some conversation.
Fruit: Fresh or dried varieties work to add texture and taste. Try fig halves, grape clusters, and melon and cantaloupe balls mixed with bowls of dried apricots, dates, cranberries or raisins.
Vegetables: These can be fresh, roasted or preserved, such as olives or artichoke hearts. Pick colourful roasted peppers, grape tomatoes, sweet and tangy pepadews or grape tomatoes, cauliflower and carrots for visual charm.
Seafood: Smoked salmon is always a hit, but antipasto-style seafood salad, fish roe and canned sardines or anchovies are also great choices.
Bread: Use tall Italian-style breadsticks (grissini), pita triangles or crackers to finish the platter. Or use artisanal-style breads like focaccia, baguette or sourdough.
Keep these tips in mind when building your selection of antipasto.
- Choose varied colours, flavours and textures. If you’re hosting a big party, remember that antipasto is a preview of the meal to come, so less is more.
- Experiment with different shapes and sizes for visual appeal. Intersperse salami rounds with crusty bread and fresh bocconcini balls. Serve olives with chunks of hard cheese together, or small bowls of fig jam and pepper jelly with square crackers and brie triangles.
- An all-meat (or cheese, seafood or vegetable) platter is fine as long as ingredients complement each other and the main course to follow and remember that variety is the spice of life.
- Keep vegetarian and vegan guests happy with separate meat and dairy plates.
- Ensure platters are kept refrigerated before and after serving. A good general rule is not to leave the antipasto out for longer than 2 hours at room temperature.
This is a preview of the main meal and it should complement the origins of your main dish — think French cheeses before coq au vin or prosciutto slices and garlic-stuffed olives before Italian-style manicotti. Also consider the star ingredients of your main dish. If your main dish is meat- or dairy-heavy, aim for more vegetables. If it’s vegetarian and your guests are not, consider a focus on charcuterie.
Antipasto sets the tone for a formal dinner and inspires conversation. At a sit-down dinner, it’s fun to creatively plate an individual selection of antipasto for each guest as they are getting seated at the table. Bitter aperitifs, like Campari- or Aperol-based drinks, pair well with salty meats and olives. Pair champagne cocktails with just about anything — crackers, mascarpone, or fresh figs and honey. Our Prosciutto, Olive & Orange Skewers are pretty and light — just the right, combination to kickoff the meal.
Like the best cocktail party banter, a great antipasto buffet offers a mix of pleasant surprises and familiar comforts. Include a selection of at least two choices from each of the flavour groups: salty, sweet, sour, spicy and umami. Our Prosciutto & Mango Bites blend salty and sweet. Starches like bread sticks, focaccia and crackers are essential, but be sure to include a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables as well.
Whether you nibble ingredients separately in the park, or combine them into sandwiches for a backyard tea party picnic, we have you covered. Pre-sliced meats and cheeses are convenient edibles to pack even if you’re just steps away from your kitchen. Plastic or glass food storage containers are handy, but you can also stuff takeout containers with marinated peppers, mushrooms and artichokes from our antipasto buffet cart. Ask our bakery department to pre-slice a selection of rustic artisanal breads, grab a jar of your favourite pesto, some napkins, plastic knives and a picnic blanket. Buon appetito!