As a nation that really knows how to eat well it's not surprising that the Italians have the perfect way to kick off any meal. Called the antipasti course – literally the "before pasta" part of the meal – antipasti is as wide-ranging as they are mouthwatering.
For example, there are meat, fish and vegetarian options to suit every taste but all tend to have one thing in common. They include a few ingredients, all of the highest quality, that are simply prepared to let the flavours speak for themselves.
They're also quite specific to the regions of the country, for example, cured meats are popular in the north of Italy, while seafood is more likely to pop up on menus in the southern regions of Calabria. But in Dublin we're lucky to have a wide choice of awesome Italian restaurants to choose from – and here are five of the very finest antipasti dishes on the Emerald Isle.
1. Bruschetta Al Pomodoro - La Caverna
If you ever needed proof that simple can be delicious when it's in the right hands then this very moreish starter from La Caverna is all you need to know. Pronounced "brus-ketta", it's simply a slice of lightly toasted ciabatta bread loaded with cubes of rich and fruity beef tomato garnished with torn fresh basil and dressed with extra virgin olive oil. The result, quite simply, is perfection on a plate.
2. Dough Balls Doppio - Milano
Here's the perfect way for Milano to use up the dough that they don't need for their first class pizzas. These bite-sized little balls are crispy on the outside and as soft and inviting as freshly-baked bread on the inside. Plus, to make them even more delicious, they're also made to share and come served with garlic butter, pesto and pestorissa – Milano's own unique version of the hot and spicy Moroccan harissa paste.
3. Antipasto All'Italiana - Pinnochio
Pinnochio brings you a classic plate of assorted cured meats along with cheeses and grilled vegetables that are also ideal for sharing. That's not to say that the restaurant isn't also keen to try new locally-influenced dishes too. For example, they've even been known to produce their own Guinness Stew Ravioli in the past - comprising of Irish ingredients and Italian influences.
4. Crispy Calamari - Carluccio's
It's the sheer simplicity of this dish from Carluccio's that's so incredible. It just consists of tender squid rings that are covered in the lightest of batters and deep fried before being served with lemon mayonnaise. As calamari goes, this is some of the best in the whole of Ireland.
5. Caprese Salad - Jamie's Italian
Probably no-one has done more to raise the profile of Italian food in recent years than Jamie Oliver so it's fitting that the last of our list of awesome antipasti should come from Jamie's Italian. It's a mouthwatering combination of mixed tomatoes, creamy buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and a rich and fruity virgin olive oil dressing.
Fancy a taste of some of these gorgeous antipasti yourself? Well, for starters, you'd better give Deliveroo a call.