Stuzzichini – The Scoop on Italy’s Appetizers (+ Pronunciation)

Stuzzichini Meaning

Stuzzichini are Italy’s version of appetizers or hors d’œvres. You can also think of them as finger foods, snacks, or nibbles.  In Italy, you’ll sometimes hear them called spuntini.

Good To Know: The singular of stuzzichini is stuzzichino.

The word stuzzichino comes from the Italian verb ‘stuzzicare’ – to ‘whet,’ or ‘whet your appetite.’ And, that’s exactly what you do when you nibble on stuzzichini.

Stuzzicare has another meaning – to ‘poke at,’ like with a toothpick (stuzzicadenti), which is often used to serve the stuzzichini.

Stuzzichini are usually salty and light appetizers that won’t ruin your meal.

Good to Know: In Venice, stuzzichini go by the name of cicchetti. Visit the local bars – bàcari – and order the city’s version of appetizers. Read more about cicchetti in Venice in our posts about Venice at Night, visiting Venice in Winter, the Best Things to do in Venice, and Venice with Kids.

How To Pronounce Stuzzichini

It’s difficult to order them if you can’t pronounce the word!

Stuzzichini is pronounced stoot-tsee-KEY-nee.

Listen to it here:

When To Eat Stuzzichini

A plate of stuzzichini on a tile table at a bar in Porto Ercole, Italy.  The plate has bruschetta, olives, and a pasta salad.
Stuzzichini at aperitivo in Porto Ercole.

The best time to eat stuzzichini is whenever you’re hungry! 

Aperitivo

Stuzzichini are typically served in the afternoon or early evening. They’re served along with drinks at aperitivo and they make great after-school snacks for kids.

During aperitivo at Italian bars, you’ll often see a spread of them on the bar counter or at a table. If you purchase a drink, you can help yourself to a little plate of stuzzichini. If the stuzzichini aren’t set out as part of the aperitivo (for example, they’re in a glass display at the counter), you’ll need to order them individually.

Before Dinner

Stuzzichini can also be served before dinner. You’ll always find some stuzzichini out before a big holiday meal, like Christmas Eve dinner or New Year’s Eve dinner.

Afternoon Snack Time

Families serve simple stuzzichini as an afternoon snack for kids. Dinner in Italy is served much later, so kids here usually have a snack (merenda) around 4 or 4:30 pm. Dinner is often served at 8:00 pm or later, even for families.

Good To Know: If you’re planning on visiting Italy with your young kids, don’t stress about late dinners! More and more restaurants are opening their doors for dinner at 7 pm.

Where To Eat Stuzzichini

You’ll find stuzzichini throughout Italy!

Remember that sometimes they have a different name, depending on the region you’re in (like cicchetti in Venice). But, if you ask for stuzzichini, people will know what you’re talking about.

Eat them at a bar, at home, or at a park or playground.

Popular Stuzzichini in Italy

Potato chips and taralli in bowls on a wooden surface.
  • Olive (olives)
  • Salumi (cured meats) – prosciutto crudo, salame, capocollo, lardo, soppressata, bresaola
  • Formaggi (cheeses, both fresh and aged – pecorino toscano, pecorino romano, grana padano, parmiggiano reggiano, taleggio, robiola, formaggio di capra) cheeses
  • Pinzimonio (fresh vegetables dipped in oil)
  • Cetrioli freschi (cucumbers sliced lengthwise and sprinkled with salt and pepper)
  • Sott’oli or sottaceto (foods preserved in oil or vinegar, like sundried tomatoes, zucchini, pearl onions, pickles, capers)
  • Crostini (toasted bread with a topping like liver, explain different topping ideas, liver, olive oil and tomatoes, basil)
  • Pizzette (little mini, bite-sized pizzas)
  • Bruschetta (toasted bread with tomato and basil)
  • Pane, schiacciata, focaccia, grissini (bread snacks)
  • Insalate (salads – typically served in tiny bowls; often pasta salads, tuna and bean salads, or rice salads)
  • Taralli (crunchy, ring-shaped cracker)
  • Arancini (stuffed, deep-fried rice balls)
  • Fichi (figs, often wrapped in prosciutto crudo with cheese)
  • Patatine (potato chips)
  • Fritte (fried foods – fish, vegetables, cheese, polenta, etc)

Drinks that go well with Stuzzichini

Table with two aperol spritz in wine glasses.

Cocktails

If you order a drink at aperitivo at a bar, you can fill a plate with stuzzichini to accompany your cocktail.

Popular aperitivo cocktails include Aperol spritz, Campari spritz, hugo spritz, negroni, and bellini.

Make your own Aperol Spritz at home!

Wine

Wine is always a great choice! Italy has plenty of excellent red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines. We usually skip red wine for aperitivo and instead save it for drinking with dinner.

Sparkling water

Served on its own or with berries or a slice of cucumber or lemon inside.

Juice

Kids often have fresh-squeezed juices or packaged juices with stuzzichini. Popular flavors here include pear, peach, apricot, apple, orange, and apple/carrot/lemon.

Stuzzichini for Kids

Box of pear juice and package of little taralli crackers.
A simple after-school snack for kids – pear juice and tarallini

We often talk about stuzzichini at bars, but kids love an aperitivo spread and an appetizer or two in the late afternoon. Because Italians tend to eat dinner later (from 8:00 pm), having an afternoon snack helps kids make it to dinner. When school gets out, it’s common to see parents arrive with snacks for kids to eat while they play at the playground.

Or, you can have a few of them in the evening instead of a main course! We sometimes set stuzzichini out on platters and everyone gets small plates to serve themselves for dinner. This is a fun option for kids because little ones love finger foods!

Stuzzichini Recipes

Italian lentil salad, perfect for dinner or aperitivo.

Some stuzzichini are simple – throw potato chips into a bowl, or cut up a few sticks of carrots and celery to dip in olive oil.

Others are more complicated and are perfect for pre-dinner nibbles. Here are a few of our favorites:

Ricotta, Fig and Honey Crostini – toasted bread with a spread of fresh ricotta cheese, topped with sliced fresh figs and a drizzle of honey.

Italian Lentil Salad – fresh, simple salad that can be served in small dishes or lettuce wraps.

Bruschetta – toasted bread topped with diced tomatoes, oil, salt, and fresh basil (or dried oregano in the winter).

FAQ

Aperitivo at home - cous cous salad, berries, white wine, melon and prosciutto, cashews, olives, sausage, cheese, baci di dama.