Termini Station does not have a reputation for being a pleasant place—with almost 500,000 commuters and tourists pouring through daily, things get a little hectic. Up until about 6 months ago, it would be the last place anybody would think to go for a meal. However, in October of 2016, the team behind Mercato Centrale in Florence opened Rome’s very own Mercato Centrale. They organized some of the best food vendors in Rome and situated them in one of the most architecturally stunning spaces in Termini. Now, having dinner at the train station doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea.
The hours are surprisingly convenient (8 am – 12 am daily), which means that even if your train from Florence gets in at 10 pm you can find something delicious to eat without even leaving the train station. Or, if you have to pass through Termini on your commute home and didn’t have time to pick anything up for dinner, there are fish, meat, vegetable, fresh pasta, and bread vendors right inside Termini, and they’re actually good.
Mercato Centrale Roma is more like a food hall than a market, with vendors lined up mostly along the edges of the space and plenty of seating in the center. At other food halls, the quality of vendors is not always consistent, but at Mercato Centrale the organizers selected the vendors so carefully that it is really difficult to choose a favorite one, or to discourage going to another. I’ve eaten my way around Mercato Centrale more times than I’d like to admit, and the only not so good experience I’ve had was with the sushi, which was just okay—but still, “just okay” train station sushi in Rome isn’t so bad.
On my last visit, I had some of my favorites—a coda alla vaccinara trapizzino from Stefano Callegari with a Moretti Doppio Malto, a cone of alici fritti from the Galluzzi family with a glass of sparkling white wine from Luca Boccoli, and a cannolo from Carmelo Pannocchietti to round it all off. The coda alla vaccinara was deeply savory and tender, among the best I’ve had in Rome (and I eat a lot of coda). The chef freshly battered and fried the alici as I watched; they came straight from the fryer into a cone then to my eagerly awaiting hands. When asked what I would like at the wine bar, I said “I don’t know, you tell me, something good with fried anchovies.” The result was a glass of Vermentino Maremma Toscana D.O.C San Rabano, which was floral, light, and delicious with the fried fish.
Although I love Rome with all of my heart, her cannoli are not always spectacular. The cannoli at Mercato Centrale, however, are exceptional. The workers fill them to order, which is the only respectable way to do it. The filling is also phenomenal, sweet but still maintaining a good sheep-y ricotta flavor. If you don’t think you would like a sheep-y cannolo, try this one. All in all, I spent about 20 euro, which is incredibly reasonable considering I left completely full and two glasses of alcohol deep.
Even if Mercato Centrale weren’t so conveniently located, it’s good enough to warrant a spot on your list of “must eat” places in Rome. And hey, if you happen to be in Monti on one of our neighborhood tours, it’s just a quick walk over for a final glass of wine.