The contents of an antipasto vary greatly according to regional cuisine. It is quite possible to find different preparations of saltwater fish and traditional southern cured meats (like soppressata or 'nduja) in the south of Italy, whereas in northern Italy it will contain different kinds of cured meats and mushrooms and, especially near lakes, preparations of freshwater fish. The cheeses included also vary significantly between regions and backgrounds, and include hard and soft cheeses.
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.