Define: Italian Meals, Course by Course

Traditionally, the main meal in Italy is a lengthy affair, composed of a number of small courses. Dishes typically are relatively simple, with seasonal and fresh ingredients.

Related To:

Antipasto 
Before the meal comes the antipasto, which translates to just that — "before the meal" — and it is meant to be a little something to whet the appetite. Antipasti can be either simple or complicated, and they often include olives, vegetables, salad and bruschetta.

Primo 
The first course of the actual meal, called the primo, is typically a small serving of soup, pasta, gnocchi, rice or polenta.

Secondo 
The secondo is a small serving of fish, chicken or meat, often grilled and served without sauce.

Contorno 
The contorno is a simply cooked seasonal vegetable to accompany the secondo. One or more may be served at a meal.

Dolce 
Italians finish the meal with a dolce, which means "sweet," and it is traditionally fruit or biscotti. You might also try a fruit pie, called a crostata, but fancy desserts, such as cakes, are more likely to be reserved for special occasions.

Next Up

Italian, With Only a Few Ingredients

Sometimes, the fewer the ingredients, the better. So is the case at the new location of Frankies Spuntino at 570 Hudson Street in Manhattan. Chef/owners Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo have let classic Italian dishes shine by focusing on essential ingredients like amazing extra-virgin olive oil and heaps of fresh garlic in their grandma's dining room-style restaurant.

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