The foods offered before the meal is called the Antipasti. The plates are colorful with a variety of meats, olives, artichokes, eggs, anchovies and other ingredients to create a mini-feast.
An Italian tradition is to create an antipasti with a selection of color, flavor, texture and how well each complements each other. An antipasti is also considered a great way to get everyone socializing together.
*Cindy's Note* Antipasti or Antipasto? I get this question all the time. Here is the literal definition, Antipasto (plural) means "before the meal" and is the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal. Traditional antipasto includes cured meats, olives, pepperoncini, mushrooms, anchovies, artichokes, cheese, picked vegetables or meats and drizzled with oil and vinegar!