Updated: Dec 23, 2019
I’m not really sure I want to tell you this, because the last thing I want is for our favourite lunch spot in Rome to get even more popular, but given its growing popularity shows the cat’s out of the bag anyway, what the heck?
Mercato Centrale Roma opened in late 2016, and since then has become a favourite lunch spot for locals working in or near Termini – Rome’s main train station.
Now, like many railways stations in big cities, Termini is not known for its beauty. It’s generally a place to transit through and out of as quickly as possible. It fills daily with crowds of people bumping and pushing their way in or out, and can be a haven for pickpockets for whom business can be quite good when the unsuspecting tourist wanders in with a wallet hanging half out of their back pocket. (And I haven’t even mentioned that it’s a bit grimy both inside and out – but hey, it’s a busy transport hub – what do you expect?).
So when the group behind the fabulous Mercato Centrale upstairs in Florence’s main market hall moved to open a similar operation at Termini, many perfectly-plucked Roman eyebrows were raised.
But the nay-sayers have been quietened and the punters have voted with their feet… and tummies.
The Mercato is found about halfway along the Via Giolitti side of the station: the one that faces the Forum. The space highlights some of the original architectural details of the 1930’s design, including an incredible marble-faced exhaust hood that anchors the entire space in the center.
Mercato Centrale is a food hall where you can wander various stands, get a bit of this or maybe a bit of that, then take a seat at the tables on the ground floor (where the vendors are located) or to take the stairs or elevator upstairs the top mezzanine level, where there are more tables.
The difference between the Mercato and other similar artisanal food and drink options, such as Eataly and nearby Esquilino Market, is that the central premise of Mercato Centrale in Rome is to involve excellent local vendors and food producers, rather than a ‘best of Italy’ range of eateries.
And the eighteen vendors selling their wares in the Mercato turn out to be a ‘who’s who’ of the contemporary Roman food scene. As an Aussie, I’m only a novice in this department, but those in the know tell me many are at the top of the pile in terms of local cuisine. Gabriele Bonci of Pizzarium fame makes one of one of the best pizzas in Roma and you’ll find his stall at the Mercato, along with butcher Roberto Liberati whose salami and sausages are worth giving up vegetarianism for, Beppe Giovale – regarded as the master of formaggi - and Alessandro Conti: artichoke maestro extraordinaire (I didn’t even know there was such a thing). And there are another 14 local artisans there with them, offering great food at reasonable prices (and you can have wine as well!!)
The Mercato is easy to find: Termini Station is the only point in Rome where two of its main Metro lines cross, as well as being the main arrival and departure point of intercity and international trains for Rome.
It’s a great place to head for a bite to eat and the chance to select from a wide range of local foodie delights, and it won’t break the bank. So next time in Rome, make sure you pop in and give it a try.
But let’s just keep it between us for now, OK?
Termini Railway Station
Via Giovanni Giolitti 36
You can visit the Mercato if you join us on our Best of Italy small group tour.