What Is an Antipasto Bar?

by DoanPhuong Nguyen ; Updated September 28, 2017

An antipasto bar serves small plates of Italian food. The dishes are laid out in a long bar, and patrons can pick and choose what dishes they want to eat. An antipasto bar is similar to a tapas bar, except that it serves Italian food. Antipasto is an Italian food tradition that is similar to an American appetizer or the French hors d’oeuvre. You can find antipasto bars in many grocery stores, specialty food stores and Italian restaurants.

What is Antipasto?

Antipasto is an Italian word that literally translates into “before the meal.” (The word ‘”anti” translates to “before,” and “pasto” is the Italian word for “meal.”) In traditional Italian cuisine, starting a meal off with an antipasto is meant to arouse your appetite for the main course. Antipasto is typically accompanied with wine. For this reason, a growing number of wine bars in America are beginning to serve antipasto at their establishments. Some also offer antipasto bars for their patrons.

Types of Food Available at Antipasto Bar

Depending on the location where the food is served, antipasto bars can have a wide assortment of antipasto options. Some antipasto bars only serve simple dishes, such as roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, pickled garlic, sliced and marinated tomatoes, thinly sliced salami and other meats, olives, capers, homemade garlic bread, grilled deli vegetables and similar food items. Other antipasto bars have an advanced selection that combines meats and seafood with the basic antipasto choices.

Antipasto can be as simplistic or creative as the chef wants, but what truly makes this Italian appetizer unique is its addition of extra virgin olive oil. For a dish to be called “antipasto,” it must include extra virgin olive oil.

Antipasto Bars in Grocery Stores

Antipasto bars in grocery stores and specialty food shops typically only offer simple culinary treats. The traditional offerings include olives, roasted red peppers, sweet pickles, pepperoni, roasted almonds and similar appetizers. Grocery stores do mark up the prices for antipasto in their bars. It’s usually cheaper to buy the specific food you want in a jar than it is to purchase it at the bar.

Antipasto Bars in Italian Restaurants

In a growing number of Italian restaurants in the United States, diners can order an antipasto plate, or they can choose to select what they want at the antipasto bar. Some restaurants serve the antipasto bar similar to a buffet; customers grab a plate and choose what they want to eat. At fancier eateries, customers pick what items they want and they are charged for each individual item.

There is usually a better selection of antipasto in a restaurant setting. The food is also fresher than at a grocery store bar. Patrons can enjoy a combination of bruschetta, salty cheeses, fried or marinated seafood, sausages and cured meats, seared squid and the traditional olives, artichokes, roasted red pepper and the like.

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About the Author

DoanPhuong Nguyen has been a professional writer since 2007. Her articles have appeared in "Nashville City Paper," "Nashville Parent magazine" and numerous online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University. She is also member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.