As someone who claims an Italian heritage, I’m just tickled to put this list of Italian Appetizers together.
I grew up with my dad’s whole family eating and cooking and getting together for any reason or holiday, noshing antipasto and pizzelle cookies and trying to hear each other over bickering or belly laughing (or both).
Antipasto, which is the Italian word for “appetizer” is a traditional meal starter for many families back in the day, and is certainly available in some form at many restaurants serving Italian food.
Antipasto, sometimes spelled “Antipasti,” as the spread of Italian snacks, often includes cured meats like prosciutto or capicola salami, olives, peperoncini, mushrooms, anchovies, pickled artichokes, cheese and giardiniera—vegetables like carrots and bell pepper in oil or vinegar.
Think of it like a charcuterie board with an Italian flair!
My family rejected anchovies, though! We stepped right on out of that tradition!
We’ve curated some yummy recipes from around the web that will add -chef’s kiss- to your entrees, setting your Italian meal up for “mangia!”—success!!
What makes appetizers Italian, you ask? I tend to navigate the menu based on how much tomato sauce, oregano and basil a recipe might feature, but they are so much more than that.
Fresh tomatoes, olives, pasta, crusty bread, mozzarella, parmesan cheese, balsamic, truffles, all add to what I have in my head that screams “Italian food.”
Here is a selection of delicious Italian Appetizers to start your Italian feast off right.
Bruschetta is a classic Italian appetizer that is always a winner. The thick crusts of bread topped with fresh diced tomato, balsamic vinegar and herbs is just so delicious.
Ripe romas and tangy balsamic vinegar were just made to go together and in this recipe. The combination stirs the taste buds perfectly.
Keep in mind that the bread should be warm and toasty and the topping should be chilled.
So plan ahead with this one. Leftover Grilled Tomatoes make an amazing bruschetta, just FYI.
Italian meatballs, when cooked properly, will have a slight, crisp char on the outside yet tender on the inside.
My grandmother made very large meatballs. They were round, but otherwise were the size of softballs! You don’t have to make yours this big, but one meatball was the meal when she was cooking.
The bread crumbs that you use to bind the meatballs should be fresh and not stale. If you want the best, consider making your own breadcrumbs.
The sauce that you put on the meatballs is as important as the meatballs itself. So choose a marinara sauce that will speak to your crowd.
An antipasto platter is essentially the appetizer plate that you serve before you serve your pasta main dish.
Like I mentioned above, in my house the antipasto platter tends to be the star of the show. We jam ours with a variety of olives, cheeses, meats and offer sliced Italian bread on the side.
There are a few ingredients that are pretty standard for each platter. Fresh mozzarella or even marinated mozzarella balls are key.
Then there is the meat which is generally salami, pepperoni or both.
Feel comfortable experimenting with this Italian appetizer because there is no wrong way to put it together.
This is an adaptation of the classic Caprese salad. This appetizer is so easy to make.
You only need cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, mini mozzarella balls and your best balsamic vinegar.
I do recommend that you turn the balsamic vinegar into a glaze but that is simple and only takes a few minutes.
Caprese salad is one of my favorite Italian appetizers. It’s easy to make or add on top of a bed of mixed greens.
The rich flavor of the balsamic vinegar against the juicy perfection of a tomato is just mouthwatering.
Then when you combine that along with torn fresh basil leaves and Mozzarella you can make a simple yet out of this world starter.
It is a classic appetizer that everyone enjoys.
If you want a fresh-tasting authentic Italian treat consider marinating your own olives.
It is easier to do than you probably imagine.
Another option to keep life simple is to run to your closest Central Market and hit up their olive bar.
There you can pick out a large variety of marinated olives. That is what I do and it works out super well.
Italian nachos are crunchy, covered with cheese, black olives and creamy alfredo sauce.
Instead of tortilla chips, the toppings are piled on crunchy fried wontons.
The cheese is mozzarella and they have sliced black olives and banana peppers. Then add in chicken and diced bell peppers to boot.
These are packed with flavor and now I need some.
Fried ravioli stuffed with cheese that is cooked until golden brown with that perfect crunch is simply heavenly.
Then if you sprinkle it with a bit of shredded parmesan and minced parsley while it is still hot, you have a delicious Italian appetizer.
Finally, finish off this appetizer with a dipping marinara sauce.
Baked shrimp stuffed with breadcrumbs, crushed garlic, parmesan cheese and herbs is always a big hit.
Serve this appetizer with a chilled white wine and the flavors will really meld together.
This is an appetizer that you want to serve warm so keep that in mind when menu-planning.
10. Fried Mozzarella
Crunchy gooey fried mozzarella are so fun to pop in your mouth. When the cheese is perfectly melted they stretch out to create a fun treat.
The trick that makes this recipe so simple to create is that it uses string cheese. You can cut the string cheese into cubes then batter and fry it.
While it isn’t required, I love to dip my fried cheese bites in a tangy marinara sauce.
11. Fried Calamari
When fried calamari is cooked properly, it is golden, crispy and light. As you will see in this recipe it is recommended to fry up frozen calamari.
The trick to making good calamari is to not overcook it. If you do, it will become rubbery.
So the moment that they start to turn golden brown is when you want to pull them out of the oil.
I prefer a garlic aioli dipping sauce for these instead of the Peri-Peri sauce referenced in the recipe.
Stuffed mushrooms are the best IF they are well done. When we eat out, it is always a given that we will order these. We don’t even need to discuss it.
Our stuffed mushrooms recipe is made using portobello mushrooms and stuffed with turkey sausage, pepper and goat cheese.
We keep the recipe simple but always wind up adding in something extra. Feel free to experiment with this recipe and add in your favorite herbs and spices.
13. Garlic Bread
When garlic bread is loaded with butter, garlic and parmesan cheese and is toasted to perfection, I can’t get enough of it.
My struggle is forcing myself to stop eating it and eat other food. (Hello, vegetables, girl.) When it’s hot and crispy, I pull it apart and dip it in my sauce—comfort food heaven!
Whatever you decide to top your garlic bread with the secret is to start with fresh bread.
14. Garlic Knots
Then God gave us garlic knots and the world has since been a happier place.
The key to delicious garlic knots is to use about five times as much minced garlic as you think that you should.
The secret to easy garlic knots is to use pizza dough. Starting with this foundation makes the recipe quick and simple.
These bite size appetizers are unique visually and in taste. With this appetizer you get all of the Italian flavors and the heartiness of chicken.
You cook the lasagna noodles until they are al dente and while that is happening you cook up the chicken.
You wrap the chicken in the noodle and then top it with a spicy marinara sauce and top it with mozzarella.
Oh, and the best part is that you use creamy ricotta cheese to hold it all together.
Whipped ricotta, sliced strawberries, fresh basil and tangy balsamic on a perfectly toasted crusty bread.
This is a strawberry balsamic crostini and when I eat one, I am full of delight.
When putting this together, find the freshest loaf of french bread that you can find.
Also, get the most beautiful strawberries that you can buy because they are the star of this show.
You can make this fluffy and airy bread at home and when you do, you get to control the outstanding flavor.
It is important to note that you will need to allow the dough time to rest. So this is a plan ahead Italian appetizer.
But the results are so worth the wait.
Focaccia bread is pronounced “fuh-KA-cha” and it is an Italian yeast bread that is topped with salt, herbs and olive oil.
This roll up is creamy and filled with everything delicious.
A pinwheel is a tortilla that has cream cheese, mozzarella, pesto and other goodies spread across it.
Then it is rolled up and sliced into round pieces. This is a finger food that is sure to be a hit at your next event.
These deviled eggs have fresh basil, garlic and lemon-parmesan panko. So this is a unique Italian flair to an American picnic classic.
21. Hot Caprese Dip
This hot dip is made of cheeses, herbs and diced tomatoes.
The big question is will you use toasty bread or chips as your dipping device?
You can put this cheesy appetizer together in advance and then throw it in the oven when you are ready.
Basil pesto is so darn flavorful. So when I discovered that you can add it into hummus and have an Italian themed appetizer, I got excited.
Burrata is a very special cheese. It is essentially a creamy mild cheese wrapped in mozzarella cheese.
It is special and beautiful. When it melts it turns into something so rich and creamy that you know there will not be any leftovers.
Don’t let the simplicity of this appetizer fool you because it is rich with flavor.
This appetizer is made from stuffed phyllo dough cups. Phyllo dough is such a fun and flaky pastry.
These cups are stuffed with goat cheese, pesto, sun dried tomatoes and other yummies.
These are so easy to pop in your mouth one right after another so I highly recommend making more than you think that you need.
Dough balls stuffed with mozzarella cheese, pesto and then brushed with garlic butter and herbs sounds so delicious.
This appetizer is also made with pizza dough to make it easier on you.
My only real tip with this perfect recipe is to use more garlic. More garlic is always the answer to any question.
This is such an elegant appetizer that just simply tastes refreshing. We can’t stop making this one in our house.
If you can get your hands on heirloom tomatoes for this recipe, do it!
Whatever kind of tomatoes you do use, just make sure that they are firm and ripe.
Hot Tip: Learn how long tomatoes last
Let’s be honest, making bread can be a bit intimidating but this recipe is fairly easy. Well, it is easy for a bread recipe.
You don’t need a bread machine for this one. It rises in two hours.
The only ingredients required are flour, salt, water and dry yeast. Good things come to those who wait, right?
This Italian appetizer is exactly what it claims to be. It is a fig slice topped with gorgonzola cheese and wrapped in prosciutto.
This is an appetizer that is beautiful on the plate and quick to put together.
There is a piece of arugula tucked in under the prosciutto for style and grace.
Don’t forget to add that extra touch of fresh cracked pepper on top.
29. Tiny Fig Pizzas
Tiny pizzas are fun. These tiny pizzas are fun AND topped with glorious flavors.
These pizzas have dried fig pieces, caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella and arugula.
Try and eat just one! I dare you.
These polenta pieces are lightly dipped in Italian breadcrumbs and fried up to just enough to make them crispy.
Then they are placed on a serving tray and topped with a freshly made basil pesto.
Try making the pesto with walnuts instead of pine nuts and see how you like the flavor. It can be fun to experiment with different ingredients.
Zucchini is a frequently used vegetable in Italian cooking so it was easy to think Italian when creating this fritter appetizer.
I cook these in the Air Fryer just to keep things simple. Guests will snatch these up so fast, you should double the batch.
32. Gnocchi Cheese Fondue
Fondue is a fun finger food that is both sophisticated and fairly easy. Melt cheese? Done.
Gnocchi dipped in cheese fondue. Tortellini dipped in cheese fondue.
This is just gonna make everyone smile.
So a stromboli is basically all of the goodness of pizza but nestled inside the pizza dough instead of open face and flat.
You can use pre-made pizza dough for this easy recipe.
When it’s done, cut it into strips and bam you have an appetizer that was simple to make.
Serve with warmed marinara for dipping.
Man, I sure love a hot dip. As a young adult, my entertaining abilities got stuck in mixing french onion dip packets into sour cream and leaving it at that. But this is real slow food, baby.
This spinach artichoke dip is made in the slow cooker and that just makes life easier.
Throw all of the ingredients in the slow cooker and then head out to find yourself a nice crusty bread to use as your vessel to eat this delicious cheesy appetizer.
I want to caution you because soon you will find marinating mozzarella highly addictive.
The mozzarella will marinate in olive oil, garlic and a variety of fresh seasonings.
This recipe will only take you 10 minutes to put together. Then allow it to marinate for as long as you can stand it.
Wait at least 10 minutes. Yes, it will be a tough, long torturous 10 minutes but do your best.
The bottom line
Just so you know, there are no rules whatsoever that say you have to make these mouthwatering Italian Appetizers to serve BEFORE dinner.
I hereby give you the freedom to make these AS DINNER. Or lunch. Or how about as part of the brunch table?
Yes. Go forth and enjoy these Italian Appetizers any time of the week and feel good about your decisions.
Looking for more Italian favorites? Here are side dishes and desserts, too!
Be well, friends! Mangia, mangia!
- Italian Meatballs
- Antipasto platter
- Caprese skewers
- Caprese salad
- Marinated olives
- Italian nachos
- Toasted ravioli
- Stuffed shrimp
- Fried mozzarella
- Fried calamari
- Stuffed mushrooms
- Garlic bread
- Garlic knots
- Mini chicken parmesan lasagna rolls
- Strawberry balsamic crostini
- Herbed focaccia bread
- Pesto tortellini skewers
- Pesto pinwheels roll ups
- Italian deviled eggs
- Hot caprese dip
- Basil pesto hummus
- Burrata crostini with tomato jam and pesto
- Sun dried tomato pesto goat cheese bites
- Pesto mozzarella stuffed dough balls
- Marinated tomatoes
- Rustic crusty Italian bread
- Fig, prosciutto & gorgonzola
- Fig pizzas
- Parmesan crusted polenta
- Gnocchi cheese fondue
- Pepperoni stromboli
- Spinach artichoke dip
- Marinated mozzarella balls
- Pick 3 appetizers.
- Follow the instructions to create them.
- Enjoy every bite!