“Meant to spark the appetite, antipasto literally means ‘before the meal,” says German Rijo, Executive Chef of the Celebrity Eclipse. “An antipasto bar often appears near the entrance of Italian restaurants to entice diners.” Even if you’re not planning on serving a full menu, an antipasto bar is a great idea for colorful cocktail party snacking.
To put together an award-winning antipasto bar for your next gathering, Rijo — who oversees the planning and preparation of over 16,000 on-ship meals a day — has the following tips:
Think Quality: Choose a selection of quality ingredients that will offer your guests a variety of flavors, colors and textures. Cured meats such as prosciutto, cappicola and salami; thinly-sliced roast beef; fire-roasted eggplant and peppers; kalamata and green olives; marinated mushrooms and artichoke hearts; and fresh mozzarella, as well as aged provolone and Parmesean.
Go Green: Prepare and display grilled or pickled vegetables first, followed by cheese, olives and dips, and sliced meats. Popular vegetables that are good for grilling include asparagus, bell peppers, squash, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant and artichoke hearts.
Bottle Power: Always offer olive oil and balsamic vinegar in authentic decanters. Fresh herbs such as Italian parsley, cilantro and basil add visual appeal, as well as flavor and pungent scents.
Ham Knowhow: Meats, especially prosciutto, should be sliced right before serving to maintain moisture. Additional tip: For the most authentic prosciutto possible, use a hand-cranked prosciutto slicer to carefully prepare the meat. Only the specialized slicer’s razor sharp precision, powered by a spinning flywheel, can provide wafer-thin slices of irresistible prosciutto while avoiding the overheating associated with modern, high-speed — and therefore friction-generating — meat slicers.
Consider your senses: The eyes “eat” first, so use dishes and decorative elements of varied heights to make your presentation original and interesting. Glass vessels, Tuscan ceramics or rustic artifacts will enhance your display.