One thing Italians know how to do is eat. Antipasto is like a series of tapas; but instead of serving them on different plates like the Spaniards do, the Italians prefer them all on one plate. At Damian's Cucina Italiana (3011 Smith, 713-522-0439), the sumptuous assortment of cold foods called antipasto misto ($7.95) is on view at the front of the restaurant. The offerings change frequently -- on one evening, the chef had prepared a plate of marinated olives and onions, cheese, mortadella, pepperoncini, stuffed mushrooms, frittata, a country pâté and marinated chicken breast. It's more than enough to get the gastric juices flowing and prime you for the pasta course.
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