If you’re having a pizza party or flipping the bill at a restaurant for a large group of people, getting appetizers is going to be necessary. It will ensure everyone is full by the end and help stave off deep hunger before the pies arrive. We’re going to suggest 23 of the best appetizers before pizza.
These include typical selections like breadstuffs, deep fried options and a world of choice salads. But there are going to be others such as varieties of bruschetta, prosciutto wraps, meatballs and pine nut hummus, among several others.
Whatever you choose, the flavors, tastes and textures of the food should complement each other. While most suggestions below are good for many pizzas, not every appetizer will taste right. Consider spicy versus sweet, crunchy versus soft and cheesy with salty or tangy, for example.
Breadstuffs are a good pairing for any pizza. They provide a filling start before the main course. However, you want to limit it to one piece per person (½ pieces for children). Too much bread beforehand will spoil the dinner.
- Garlic Bread: This classic accompaniment needs no introduction. It’s French or Italian bread sliced down the center, slathered with butter and topped with fresh garlic (or powdered garlic), dried parsley and salt. It then goes into the oven until baked to crispy perfection.
- Cheesy Garlic Bread: Cheese is a topping to to the above for a gooey stretchy texture. While most people prefer mozzarella, you can also use ricotta, gorgonzola, mascarpone, burrata and/or fontina with a pinch of parmesan.
- Breadsticks: Soft or crunchy, these little heavenly sticks are great with or before pizza. You can find these at your local grocery or bake them yourself. If at a restaurant, chances are, they’ll have these available at the table.
- Stuffed Italian Loaf: Take a loaf of Italian bread, slice it to one edge but not all the way through so it opens like a book. Then, layer butter, herbs, parsley, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, cheese and Genoa salami. Seal it shut and bake until golden brown and the cheese slightly oozes out on the sides.
Bruschetta is technically bread, but you can do many things with it. Therefore, it deserves its own mention in our selections of appetizers before pizza. They’re versatile, you can have several varieties at once and people usually devour them. All of them utilize an Italian baguette sliced and baked in the oven, called a crostini, that’s very dry and crispy.
- Tomato, Onion ; Basil: This is the classic way to make bruschetta. Top bread pieces with fresh basil, chopped tomatoes and onions. Season it with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Cheese is optional.
- Peppers ; Gorgonzola: Caramelize sweet red and yellow peppers, drizzle them with some olive oil along with salt and pepper. Then, top all that with gorgonzola cheese.
- Muffuletta: Salami, pepperoni and spiral ham top the bread with any Italian cheese of your choice and olive salad or spread.
- Gardiner: Using spicy pickled veggies is an ideal topper for bruschetta. Toss it with olive oil and spices like parsley, dill and/or basil. This truly helps clear the palette for the coming main course.
A bowl of fresh greens and dressing is always a great thing to eat before any meal, especially pizzas with a thick crust. Plus, this is excellent for large parties since you can make them quickly and in large batches.
To pair the right one with pizza, consider the flavors of the pizza. For instance, salads with vinaigrette should go with basic pizzas whereas salads with simpler arrangements are good for spicy sauces and non-traditional pies.
- Italian Pasta Salad: Penne, two kinds of cheese, sausage, olives, onions, herbs and a homemade Italian dressing make this salad a hit with any pizza party. This will clear the table in a matter of minutes.
- Caprese: This traditional salad comprises whole basil leaves, fresh tomatoes and mozzarella with a lovely drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. Top this with pinches of salt and pepper for a light seasoning. It’s easy, delicious and healthy.
- Greek Village Salad: If you’re having a Greek theme for a pizza party, having this classic is a must. Cucumbers, onions, olives, green peppers, feta cheese and tomatoes drown in vinegar and olive oil. Use a little dried oregano, salt and pepper for flavor and freshness.
- Chopped Italian Salad: This very easy salad comprises both iceberg lettuce and radicchio along with red onion, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, provolone, pearl mozzarella, dried oregano and peperoncini with a zesty lemon vinaigrette. It’s absolutely delicious!
- Classic Antipasto Salad: This traditional serving tray can also become a salad. Lettuce, mozzarella, peperoncini, salami, salty olives and a tangy vinaigrette are good for authentic Italian pizzas like the Neapolitan or Margherita.
Deep Fried Delights
Of course, everyone loves fried foods and the Italians have developed them down to a science and an art. A little goes a long way and it will hold over your hungry guests until the pizza finishes cooking. There isn’t a pizza on earth that won’t go with one of these.
- Calamari: Deep fried squid is a classic appetizer for almost any Italian dinner, with pizza being the most ideal. Lightly breaded and deep fried in vegetable oil or lard to provide the perfect crispy crunch.
- Mozzarella Sticks: This cheesy goodness is a classic, especially for children. Roll string cheese or cut long cubes of fresh mozzarella and roll it in butter followed by a subsequent roll in breadcrumbs. Then, it fries in lard or vegetable oil until it reaches that perfect golden brown.
- Aranci: These are, essentially, fried rice balls. You cook Arborio rice like any risotto. Then create little balls you stuff with things like mozzarella, peas, chopped basil, onions, eggplant, zucchini and/or tomatoes.
- Fried Olives Stuffed with Sausage: This Tuscan delight encases breadcrumbs, Italian pork sausage, romano cheese, reggiano cheese and crushed red pepper within pitted castelvetrano olives. They fry to crispy golden brown perfection in canola oil.
- Crusted Polenta: Super easy and delicious, you slice up a roll of polenta (which is cornmeal) and sprinkle the slices with cheese (parmesan, asiago or romano), parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Then, put it in a hot pan of lard, olive oil or canola oil and cook until just lightly browned.
Other Small Foods
Many other kinds of appetizers before pizza are delectable, different and delightful. The ones below illustrate some of the more popular, with most served at a plentitude of Italian restaurants in any major city. Don’t pair ones with pizzas that have the ingredients as the toppings. For instance, don’t use stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer for mushroom pizza, give a little variety.
- Stuffed Mushrooms: These are fresh button or Portobello mushroom heads stuff with cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic, olive oil, sausage or any other filling you want. You bake them in the oven until tender and slightly crisp. The internet has a whole world of fabulous fungi recipes to make your mouth water and wow your guests.
- Italian Meatballs: Make them miniature and serve in a sauce (alfredo or tomato). Top it with a little basil and cheese for the ultimate appetizer. You can use Italian-seasoned sausage or create your own with fennel, olive oil, oregano, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.
- Prosciutto Wraps: Take slices of this cured pork product and wrap them around asparagus spears, mozzarella cheese sticks, long chunks of salami or any other vegetable, meat or cheese of your choice.
- Pesto ; Pine Nut Hummus: A perfect appetizer for spring and autumn with a general Mediterranean theme, you make classic pesto and mix it with the same amount of pine nuts as you would chickpeas for hummus.
- Watermelon with Feta Cheese: Precious watermelon balls drizzle with olive oil and cover with feta crumbles and fresh chopped mint. It’s light, healthy and won’t be too filling. But, it’s only good for certain kinds of pizzas featuring spiciness.
Truly, there are many appetizers before pizza that you could go with for any pizza party or dinner outing. Just remember, the one you pick should fit your budget while also complementing the pizza you intend to have.
For example, balance hot and spicy with something slightly sweet for a flavorful contrast. You could balance crispy with soft or cheesy versus salty. Your goal here is to emphasize the pizza flavors soon to come.