Italians have always enjoyed shared-plate dining, a trend that caught on in America more than two decades ago but is suddenly hot again, with antipasti boards lighting up social media feeds on TikTok and Instagram.

These traditional dishes served at enotecas, osterias, trattorias, and pizzerias across Italy embody the spirit of communal dining and the savoring of simple flavors. They are also a fantastic way to incorporate a variety of ingredients into dishes that complement each other throughout the meal.

Using fresh, high-quality ingredients and letting their flavors shine through easy, casual preparations that can be enjoyed by groups can be a gamechanger. The cost benefit to the bottom line is more product is moved, allowing guests to graze their order as a meal itself, or match selections to their main courses. It’s the epitome of flexible dining, and one that guests will happily indulge again and again.


One of the most popular Italian dishes, bruschetta simply means grilled bread, and is usually rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and then spread with rustic ingredients, from spicy bean pastes to grilled meats and vegetables. Roasted peppers with white anchovies are timeless, as is eggplant caponata.

Crostini is a little more delicate. Slender slices of baguette are toasted and flavored with garlic and butter, then finished with a tablespoonful or more of a refined topping such as spicy Italian sausage tossed with spinach, caramelized onions and prosciutto di parma, wild mushroom ragu or crab salad. Perfect for when the weather cools, these bread-based dishes sing alongside bowls of pasta. They can also be created daily from your inventory as specials, cutting down on kitchen waste and allowing the line to flex their creative muscles.

Juice is Loose

While tomatoes are at the height of seasonality in August and September, treat your clientele to arguably the most famous Italian side salad of them all—the caprese. Comprised of peak heirloom tomatoes, slabs of buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves drizzled with olive oil, this classic will likely outsell most other shared plates. (When tomatoes are past their prime, consider keeping caprese on your menu but substituting fresh tomatoes with oven-roasted, which is a trade-off that can be legitimately offered until next year’s tomato season.)

Similarly, panzanella is a perennial crowd-pleaser, with yesterday’s bread-turned-croutons soaking up all the flavors of the ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and vinaigrette. Moving a little further afield—and bursting with simplicity—is the peppery arugula salad, tossed with shaved Parmesan, lemon juice and olive oil. It's light, refreshing, and full of flavor; and an excellent share plate to accompany heartier fare.

Across the Board

No discussion of communal Italian dining would be complete without mentioning iconic Italian meat and cheese boards. Perhaps the best share-plate of them all, comingle generous slices of prosciutto, salami, mortadella, and coppa with chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano and wedges of pecorino, Gorgonzola, and Taleggio. Accompanied by crusty bread, an assortment of olives, nuts, dried fruits and honey, these platters can be offered in a tiered pricing system affording guests a choose-their-own-adventure experience with multiple choices. They can also be nibbled through the course of the meal, right up until dessert.

Mind the Wine

Italy has grown grapes for more than 3,000 years and consistently ranks as the top producer of wine in the world. With more than 2,000 labels from 20 regions comprised of 96 provinces, the country embraces the lifestyle of wine drinking so much that there is rarely a table lacking a bottle to share. It’s not surprising that this convivial Italian spirit allows abundant flexibility when pairing wine with an assortment of plates. Offer diners an ever-changing variety of wines by the glass to complement their dining choices, continuing the mix-and-match approach of a truly shareable Italian meal. Fantastico!

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