“Food court” used to by synonymous with mediocre fast food in a designated area of a shopping mall. In the last 20 years, the prototypical shopping mall has not been able to maintain the same foothold in the consumer culture as it once did, thanks to Amazon and the likes. Similarly, the landscape of food culture has drastically changed. “Food courts” are slowly being replaced or overshadowed by “food halls.” Bye bye mass produced, pre-prepared, chains and franchises. Hello fresh, made-from-scratch, artisanal, and local. This trend is not unique to just the US. The first Eataly, a sprawling everything-Italian food marketplace/eatery jacked up on steroids, was born in Turin, Italy. In Rome, a similar albeit smaller concept has taken shape at the Rome train station. There’s probably more food to be eaten, then shopped for here compared to Eataly (at least the one in NYC I’ve been to). I put marketplaces and food halls like this on my to-do list when I visit any new city. It’s just as exciting and noteworthy to me as any old historical monument or museum.
The market is organized by food types. One stall for pasta, another for seafood, wine, chocolate, and so on.
Il Trapizzino serves a pizza sandwich hybrid. Their main location was a bit of a trek from the main tourist hub so we didn’t get a chance to check it out. I was stoked to find it here at the Central Market. We just got the equivalent of a meatball sub. Meatballs were big and the sauce was tangy. It wasn’t the most impressive or groundbreaking food I’ve eaten, but it was tasty enough. I would have liked to try some of their other combinations but we had to move on and save room for other things. I just found out there is a US location in NYC on the Lower East Side!
Il Pano e I Dolci
This was probably one of my favorite items at the market. Roman style pizza is notable for being rectangular instead of round. The dough is a bit sturdier and the toppings go beyond the typical Margherita. This was another offshoot of an established Roman pizzeria by Gabriele Bonci, who also has a US location in Chicago. The bottom of the pizza was crispy and the inside was doughy. It was delicious.
We also went for a meatier option with another type of pizza sandwich hybrid. It was so crispy. I was quite impressed.
Ravioli di Carne
Sadly, the pasta was the most disappointing of the lot. The ravioli were dry on the inside and the sauces were a little too acidic for our tastes.
Paccheri pomodoro, basilico, burrata
I did enjoy the shape of paccheri pasta. I can’t say its a common pasta shape I’ve had the pleasure of eating before. Definitely a lot of tomato going on here.
Overall Mercato Centrale Rome was a cool place to check it. It feels new, clean, and modern. It’s conveniently located at the Central Rome train station so you’re bound to pass through it on your transit. If pizza or pasta isn’t your thing, there’s so much more there that may tickle your fancy.
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome
8 – Very good (factoring in ambiance and variety)
7 – Good (just on food alone)
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here