When we sit down to a meal at home or in a restaurant in Italy, it is customary to be offered an appetizer. Appetizers are light dishes, served hot or cold, and are eaten before a meal. In Roman times the main meal of the day was in the evening, when Pecorino, olives, eggs, leeks, mushrooms, oysters and various vegetables were served. The appetizers were called “gustus” or “gustatio”. In Satyricon, the writer Petronius wrote, Ministrata est gustatio valde lauta…, meaning a very large appetizer was served. The word “antipasto” (appetizer) first appeared in the 1500s on the list of dishes described by the Renaissance cook Cristoforo di Messisbugo. His contemporary, Bartolomeo Scappi, called appetizers “primo servizio di credenza”, the first round, which included cheeses, green salads, salted, soused or marinated fish, salted or smoked meats, salami, caviar, Bottarga, small pies, etc. In Haute Cuisine, the term “antipasto” has been replaced by the French term “hors d’oeuvre” (out of work), indicating a dish which is considered as “off the menu”. The rule is not always respected, however, even by great chefs such as Auguste Escoffier, who at the end of the 1800s in his “Guide Culinaire” served soup before “hors d’oeuvres”. During the same period in Italy, Pellegrino Artusi also began to serve soup before the appetizer. Over the years, appetizers have played different roles, some more important, others less so. Today it is increasingly common to find Pecorino as an appetizer to begin lunch or dinner, either served on its own or with fresh fruits such as figs, pears, peaches, melons and grapes, or as an ingredient in croutons, pizzas, stuffed vegetables or nuggets.

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