The contents of an antipasto vary greatly according to regional cuisine. It is quite possible to find in the south of Italy different preparations of saltwater fish and traditional southern cured meats (like soppressata or 'nduja), whereas in northern Italy it will contain different kinds of cured meats and mushrooms and probably, especially near lakes, preparations of freshwater fish. The cheeses included also vary significantly between regions and backgrounds.
Many compare antipasto to hors d'oeuvre, but antipasto is served at the table and signifies the official beginning of the Italian meal. It may also be referred to as a starter, or an entrée.