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A digestible guide to eating and drinking like an Italian

If all roads lead to Rome, then all paths lead to Mercato Centrale Roma in Rome’s Termini train station, where you’ll find an entire panoply of Roman cuisine, all in one place.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .</a

There are so many reasons to visit the Eternal City: the history, the architecture, the art, the orchestral chaos of Italy’s capital, a modern city built on top of and around the remains of Empirical Rome.

Many tourists are often surprised to see the city bring its shutters down on the heat of the middle of the day, when the locals retire to their cool cantinas to eat a lunch of antipasto, primo, secondo, contorno, dolce, frutta e formaggio and caffè. Nothing happens in this city until Rome is fed and to fully experience the best of Rome, you must eat like a Roman.

The Mercato Centrale Roma opened in 2016 with over 500 seats and 18 open food shops, it is dedicated to the tradition and the excellence of Italian cuisine and you can find everything you might need to enjoy every aspect of Italian food.

Here’s how you can enjoy Italian food at Mercato Centrale, whether shopping for your own ingredients to prepare yourself, or sampling the unparalleled excellence of Rome’s chefs.

When the offices close at 6.30, and the bars and enoteche fill up with stunning looking professionals, you’ll know it’s aperitivo time in Rome.

Typically, between 6 and 8pm, the aperitivo is a light snack of olives, focaccia, prosciutto, salumi and much more, washed down with a glass of wine, Aperol spritz or Negroni, depending where you are in Italy. While the tables seem to creak under the weight of the food on offer, the trick with aperitivo is to not overdo it, or risk looking unsophisticated in front of the super cool Romans.

At the Mercato Centrale you can find lI Vino al bicchiere, by Luca Boccoli. With more than 100 bottles of wine that can be bought and tasted and over 40 labels that can be sold by the glass: a very balanced selection that includes Champagne, Borgogna and Barolo, you’ll find the exact right glass for your aperitivo.

Aperitivo is increasingly enjoyed with beer these days and makes a welcome refreshment after sightseeing under the Roman sun. The worldwide craft beer revolution can be found in Italy too and at La Birreria at Mercato Centrale by the Luigi Moretti brewery (1859), you can choose from light, amber, white, dark, full-bodied or slimline beers, by the glass or by the pint.

The first course of the Italian meal, the antipasto, (which is not the opposite of pasta!), is generally a selection of hand carved meats and salamis, seafood, vegetables in oil and breads. It is an appetiser and a first rung on the ladder of your Roman feast.

At I Carciofi e i funghi (Artichoke and Mushrooms) Alessandro Conti e Gabriele La Rocca create incredible traditional dishes with raw and cooked artichokes and mushrooms, and seasonal specialties like the ‘puntarelle’ with garlic pesto and anchovies.

Il Tartufo by Cristiano Savini specialises in the precious truffle, sourced in the wild forests of Tuscany and presented on your plate in the most delicious expressions of this most treasured of Italian delicacies.

Fausto Savigni and his family offer the best of Italian meats at La carne e i salumi, whether it’s raw, cold cuts, cured or salumi, the care and attention to every detail from farm to fork is evident in the quality of these fine 100 percent Italian meats.

The primo piatto is typically pasta or rice, it is the moment to experience the very essence of Italian cuisine. Developed in the Italian regions over the centuries so that rural communities could eke out their meat and fish, the primo varies from region to region and from village to village. Indeed, every family will hold fast their own slight variation as it is part of their inheritance.

At La Pasta fresca, Egidio Michelis’ family has been creating Bronze-cut durum wheat pasta, fresh handmade stuffed pasta, and sauces since 1919. Every product is made combining old homemade recipes and traditional recipes to guarantee rich and unique flavours.

The main course in Italy is usually meat or fish. In Rome, you’ll be served typical dishes like saltimbocca, abbacchio à scottaditto, involtini, bocconcini di vitello. Il secondo is the main event and if there is any small chance of you leaving the table unsatisfied, the main course ensures your hunger is absolutely sated.

Il Fritto by Martino Bellincampi serves fried everything from savoury, vegetables, dolce and so much more, the Italian skill at frying almost anything is on show here.

L’Hamburger di Chianina in Mercato Centrale is where Enrico Lagorio serves up burgers made exclusively from the famed Chianina breed of cattle from the central region of Italy. They’ll make a hearty and delicious main course that you’ll remember long after your trip to Rome ends.

While the Italians tend to shun cuisine from other countries, (they rightly look at their own cucina as sheer perfection), they have welcomed with open arms Japanese cuisine. To see Il Ramen by Akira Yoshida and Il Sushi, by Donato Scardi among all the Italian vendors in Mercato Centrale is no surprise. Italians appreciate the Japanese emphasis on quality of ingredients and simplicity of seasoning. The even refer to noodles as a type of spaghetti.

Contorni are the side dishes in an Italian meal. Typically, the vegetables are kept separate from the meat of your secondo, so the side is usually insalata or vegetables. The Italians like to keep their vegetables relatively simple, relying on the quality of the produce and its freshness do the talking.

However, if you’re looking for the best vegetables in Rome and for vegetarian and vegan delicacies look no further than Il Vegetariano e Vegano. Here Marcella Bianchi sells organic and locally-produced vegetables, fruits, dried fruit, mushrooms and much, much more.

The dessert in Italy is elevated to an art form with their traditional excellence evident in every detail. From the different kinds of pastries, ices, tarts and cakes, filled with creamy, rich ricotta and other delectable treats, there’s so much to get excited about when it comes to dessert in Rome. Even if you don’t have an especially sweet tooth, there’s something for everyone with bitter and tart options just as satisfying.

At Le Specialità siciliane, Carmelo Pannocchietti takes you on a culinary odyssey of Sicily, not only will you find a tempting array of sweet treats form the island famed for its pastry chefs, but a lot more besides, reflecting the richness and diversity of Sicilian culture and history itself.

There is a seemingly endless amount of cheeses in Italy, each offering their own expression of the terroirs of the region. From strong and hard sheep’s cheeses to creamy gorgonzola and mozzarella di bufala, you’ll find them all at Il Formaggi, courtesy of Beppe Giovale. Fruit in Italy grows larger and sweeter than anywhere else on earth and has to be tasted to be believed.

Finish your Roman feast with an espresso at La Caffetteria which prides itself on preparing Italian coffee as it should be. Just don’t ask for a cappuccino after 11 am.

Apart from the meals of the sit-down variety, Italy has a long tradition of street food which offers its own unique way to sample the specialities of each region. Il Trapizzino, by Stefano Callegari, at Mercato Centrale serves Trapizzino®, a kind of pizza pocket that is a delicious and fun way to enjoy Italian food on the go.

Pizza deserves its own category, well, because it’s pizza, it can fit into a five course Italian meal, be served on its own, or act as street food. La Pizza at Mercato Centrale is where Pier Daniele Seu bakes pizza that has been perfected over many years of experimentation and dedication to his craft.

At award-winning chef Oliver Glowig’s restaurant La Tavola, il vino e la dispensa (The Table, the Wine and the Pantry), you’ll find a top-notch dining experience where you can enjoy every stage of the Italian feat in one place.

Gelato is gelato and whether it’s your dolce at the end of a meal or enjoyed on its own at Il Gelato in Mercato Centrale you can sample the myriad of flavours hand-crafted by Luca Veralli. With a cone in hand take a stroll on the streets of Rome after sunset as the stars begin to twinkle over the Mediterranean pines and the sound of the vespas fill the hot air of the Roman night.

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