Primi piatti refer to the first proper courses in a traditional Italian meal. We are talking pasta, gnocchi, soups, polenta, rice, omelets and other staples that can fill a hungry family on a low cost budget
In consequence primi piatti hit the table, before the expensive meat is served. Pizze is not normally part of the traditional meal structure, because it constitutes a full meal in itself. Besides pizza is rarely made at home, due to the lack of the indispensable forno a legna wood oven.
For those who haven’t got time or appetite for a full Italian meal on an every day basis, primi piatti can also be served as one-course meals. In most cases this means there is a minimal amount of meat involved, though the dishes are rarely strictly vegetarian. Italians like to flavour their primi piatti with a little ham or anchovies in order to get a richer taste.
Primi piatti as one course meals are an exception in most Italian families. They will generally have a salad, some leftovers or a slice of sausage for starters, before digging into the main dish. And they will almost always have a piece of fruit for dessert. On Sundays and in connection with Christmas and Easter people still enjoy a proper 4 course meal or more.