If you have traveled to Italy or seen the term on an Italian menu, you have probably wondered what does spuntini mean? It is not as common a term for English readers. It is for sure not as familiar to known Italian terms such as antipasto or dolce. But it is something yummy. Spuntino is the Italian word for a snack. Spuntini is the plural meaning for snacks. It is a typical restaurant or hotel offering in Italy.
When you see spuntini on a menu, you will typically find small bites, snacks, or appetizers that are to be shared. It can be similar to the concept of tapas where small plates are ordered and everyone has a bite or two with their drink. It is a leisurely way to enjoy several dishes with just a small tasting of each. This may be listed on a menu in an Italian restaurant. I have seen it more common on bar menus or in hotels that have after-hours or between-meal menus for guests and is a separate menu altogether.
Experiencing Spuntino in Italy
When Ian and I arrived in Bellagio years ago it was midday. The full menu was not available at the hotel bar but they did have less than a dozen spuntini offerings. Hungry and tired, we couldn't be happier to eat. It was just what we needed and held us over until our dinner later that evening which was not until 8pm.
I still talk about this memborable Italian snack often. We had the most amazing roasted tomato soup and burrata caprese salad. I literally still dream of this snack all the time and it is one of my fondest travel food memories. The cheese was so creamy and salty while the tomatoes even in early fall were fresh, juicy, & so flavorful.
When is Spuntini Served?
There seems to be a bunch of different information on the internet about when it is served. When I was in Italy, I found that spuntini was served a few times a day. You could find spuntino offered on menus between breakfast and lunch, similar to brunch. Some hotels will have free offers such as bread, cheese, and fruits in the late morning as a snack offering.
I have also personally enjoyed amazing Italian dishes off a spuntini menu that was late afternoon before the dinner hour. This may also be called merenda but I have seen it used interchangeably. Merenda is a mid-afternoon snack similar to spuntino.
Europeans tend to eat later in the evening around 8pm. Whereas Americans are used to eating closer to the 6pm hour so spuntini is a bit popular with American tourists in those later afternoon early evening hours from 3-5 pm. So when I am in Italy and not grabbing amazing gelato midday, snacks are what I seek out. This is what I have personally experienced.
Spuntino Meaning & Definition
Spuntino is the masculine Italian term for "snack". Spuntini is the plural for spuntino (noun).
Simple enough, right? Though a snack is often quick and simple, Italian's still take is seriously. As I mentioned above, spuntini can be so delicious and satisfying even in a few small bites. One of my favorite places for spuntini near home is at a classic Italian restaurant in San Francisco. Fior d Italia is in the North Beach neighborhood where Italian heritage reins in the city.
HINT: If you ever go to Fior d Italia, order the calamari & a Milano martini off the spuntini menu. If you are there for dinner the osso buco with polenta is a favorite.
Benefits of Enjoying Italian Snacks
Italians take their food seriously. Trust me, there is no way you could live a family dinner without at least 4 hours over 6 hours. There was time to rest and snack between. Spuntino was often left out for those of us that wanted to grab something small before the next meal. It was typically nuts, cheese, fruit, and bread in my family.
You may wonder why all the eating and is snacking healthy for you? There are some benefits to eating a little bit over the course of the day versus eating only 2-3 very large meals. As always, do what is best for your lifestyle, health, and what your physician recommends. Here are some benefits of a healthy Italian diet that includes snacks.
- Regulates Blood Sugar- smaller meals over the course of the day typically helsp blood sugar levels stay steady throughout the day.
- Helps with Focus & Mental Clarity - when you are deprived of food and calories, your body and midn may be sluggish so grab something off the spuntini menu for a late morning boost.
- Moderation is Key - a small bite just to get you through to your next meal is what is key about eating snacks. Spuntino is not meant to be a 4th or 5th meal of the day. Keep it light, healthy, and small.
Italian Snack Names
When it comes to spuntino's meaning for food, it is time for a quick snack or bites to curb your hunger between meals. A spuntini menu will likely list munchies & small bites you are familiar with but you may not be familiar with the Italian language. These can include hot or cold dishes
Here are some quick English translations of the tasty tidbits of Italy. This is a list of the best traditional, classic, and simple snacks you may find listed on the spuntini menu of an Italian restaurant, bar, or hotel.
- Arancini - "crunchy rice balls" a Sicilian staple of rice stuffed and then breaded and fried.
- Bruschetta - "to roast over coals" is a toasted bread typically rubbed with garlic and olive oil and then topped with a variety of Italian ingredients.
- Crocchette - "croquette" deep-fried nuggets with different fillings like potato, chicken, shrimp, or broccoli that are breaded on the outside & served warm.
- Fritta - "fried" lightly battered foods that are deep-fried, common ones are calamari, sage leaves, artichoke hearts, & cheese.
- Panini - (pane) "bread" is a classic Italian sandwich typically on focaccia soft bread stuffed with fresh vegetables, cheese, and different kinds of salumi.
- Panzerotto - "belly like shape" is a small pocket of dough filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella similar to a mini calzone.
- Polenta - "fine flour" is a coarse or fine-ground cornmeal that is cooked with water and salt into a porridge or in Bari, where my family is from, the porridge is cooled, cut into strips and then fried to make Sgagliozza.
- Salumi - (salted meats) this is the plural of salami and is the general term for all cured/salted meats in Italy.
- Taralli - a classic street snack best described as a savory cookie; my favorite recipe is for an amazing black pepper biscotti shown above and recipe shared below.
Here are some sweet & savory snacks that would be great to serve the next time you are ready to enjoy something Italian. For the full list of spuntini on my blog check out SNACKS for all tastes. But here are a few of my favorites.
Spuntino vs Antipasto vs Merenda
Though some may use these terms interchangeably when describing small bites, snacks, or appetizers. That is just fine but some Italians may be pretty strict on the time of day and when it is served. The people of Italy are proud of their culture and so you use the terms correctly when you visit, here is a quick way to remember these.
Here is the difference between spuntino, antipasto, and merenda.
Spuntino - snack typically served between breakfast and lunch
Merenda - snack typically served mid-afternoon between lunch and supper
Antipasto - appetizer or small bite served "before meal" and is part of meal versus served between meal times.