Our 19 Best Italian Appetizers
Crispy fried artichokes. Chickpea bruschetta. Emilian spinach and cheese pie. These Italian appetizers are a great way to start off your meal, whether you’re looking for something simple and summery (Caprese salad is always a good idea), or a fall-ready starter like crispy frico cups with polenta and brown butter. Read on for those dishes, and even more Italian appetizer recipes.
Grilled Tomato Crostini
There’s no better way to enjoy sweet summer tomatoes than with extra-virgin olive oil, lots of basil, and grilled slices of thick ciabatta.
Arancini with Peas and Mozzarella
Grace Parisi’s Calabrian grandmother always used plain white rice to make her incredible arancini (rice balls), but Parisi prefers to cook with plump arborio to make the insides creamier.
Autumn Fritto Misto
Antonio Ciminelli prepares this starter year-round with whatever produce is in season. In the fall, that means apples, mushrooms and late-harvest zucchini, fried in a batter made extra-light and crisp by adding sparkling wine and whipped egg white. The fritto misto is best eaten hot from the pan, perhaps served in a paper cone.
Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Bruschetta with Pancetta
Peak-season tomatoes make all the difference in this simple bruschetta from author Susan Spungen. They're the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup or a large salad, or, to turn them into two-bite hors d'oeuvres, simply cut the bruschetta crosswise into strips.
Warm, tender, milky mozzarella is easier to make than you might think. Plus it takes just 20 minutes.
Antipasto Salad with Bocconcini and Green-Olive Tapenade
Shredded iceberg lettuce serves as the crunchy base for a salad made with creamy little mozzarella balls (bocconcini), Genoa salami, peperoncini, and green olives.
Serve this classic tomato-and-mozzarella salad with lots of grilled bread for dipping. The olive oil and the cream from the buffalo-milk mozzarella create an irresistible sauce in the bottom of the bowl.
Michael Symon's Arancini
Arancini, the crispy-on-the-outside and cheesy-on-the-inside fried rice balls, are the ultimate cocktail hour snack. Star chef Michael Symon makes his risotto the day ahead for easy prep and then breads the mozzarella-filled balls just moments before frying to get that perfect, crunchy crust.
Crispy Frico Cups with Polenta and Brown Butter
Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson molds traditional Italian frico (cheese crisps) into cups, then fills the salty, crunchy bowls with creamy, warm polenta and nutty brown butter. The frico cups soften as the polenta sits in them, so serve right away, with a fork and knife.
Roman Fried Artichokes
Double-frying is the secret to making these super crispy fried artichokes from Andrew Zimmern.
Herbed Chickpea Bruschetta
The key to these delicious bruschetta from chef Nancy Silverton is lots of olive oil. After she bakes the chickpeas with a variety of flavorings—including onions, pancetta and carrots—she purees them with a good amount of oil, spreads the puree on toasts and drizzles with a little more oil.
Roasted Eggplant Caponata
If you have the time, make the caponata at least a day ahead; it’s one of those dishes that improves as it rests. Eat it as they do in Sicily: spooned over bread or focaccia, alongside roast lamb or chicken, paired with a wedge of pecorino…in short, with almost anything!
Chickpea Fritters with Salsa Verde
These little chickpea flour morsels (called panelle in Sicily, where they’re a popular street snack) are even better when paired with the pickled shallot–flecked salsa verde in this recipe.
Sausage-Stuffed Fried Olives
Buttery, mild Castelvetrano olives add just enough salt and tang to these fried sausage snacks that pair beautifully with a crisp martini or chilled glass of wine. Use a high-quality Italian sausage for the best texture and flavor.
Focaccia col Formaggio
This snack, also known as focaccia di Recco, is a crisp, flaky, cheese-filled Italian bread, perfect for snacking on at any time of day.
Fried Zucchini Blossoms with Prosciutto and Mozzarella
Zucchini blossoms can be ordered online, and are seasonally available at farmers’ markets. Prosciutto cotto and Parisian ham should be available at a well-stocked grocery store with a cheese counter; substitute cooked ham, if needed.
At Pizzarium, chef Gabriele Bonci has reimagined the classic Roman fried risotto croquettes known as supplì. He swaps pasta with pesto for the rice and fills the croquettes with creamy stracchino cheese instead of the traditional mozzarella.
Erbazzone Reggiano (Emilian Spinach and Cheese Pie)
Flavorful and filling with a light, almost cracker-like crust, this rustic spinach pie relies on simple ingredients for an impressive finish. Because the spinach gently steams within the crust, it retains its fresh, verdant flavor even after cooking.
Mushroom and Fontina Crostini
Maria Helm Sinskey likes to use Italian Fontina cheese, which melts beautifully, but young Gouda would be equally delicious.