A coffee while you're buying milk, a quick snack if you are running late while shopping, a different lunch break out of the office, a break while taking a touristic tour, an unual aperitivo or a real dinner as in a restaurant. Everything is possible nowadays at the markets of Rome. Now, that even a Michelin star chef such as Cristina Bowerman (in the photo with her crew Fabrizio, Maria, Fabio, Emiliano e Andrea) has decided to cook at a stall, we can say that any limit has been overcome and eating at the market is not only possible, it's a must!
Although commercial legislation is under discussion at Regional offices since long time and municipality regulation is late in defining the rules for stalls assignment and food distribution, in many markets the chances to eat are increasing. Last october, just before the City Council’s downfall, there was a resolution giving more autonomy to the markets’ association, for example letting the markets free to set their working hours, allowing to stay open until late, as it happens at Parioli’s market, which has become a popular destination for an aperitivo, especially in summer.
"The rules regulating markets’ activity are old and strict. While waiting for the approval of a new Regional regulation, to accelerate calls for stalls allocation and enlarge the scope of activities at the market, we wanted to give a chance to those who wanted to present a requalification project – states Marta Leonori, who used to be a member of the previous City Coucil – There have been few pilot projects (such as Testaccio and Piazza Alessandria) putting together new activities or a different way of living the market with an old valuable tradition related to business and social habits, which could be replicated in many other corner markets. Markets which also become the place to meet, read a book or taste some of the products sold around”.
So – waiting for some institutional changes – in the last few months, a lot of new stalls going from street food to fishmonger restaurants have been opening just aside the common bar, that almost any covered market offers.
Among many of the bars where throughout these years we enjoyed a cup of coffee or cappuccino, or just stopped by to get some information about the market we were about to visit, we'd like to mention the dairy shop at Ostiense market (where you can have breakfast while buying milk and fresh eggs), Cesare's bar at Garbatella market in Santa Galla street, where the former sellers get together to have a chat, Mario's and his wife Luisa's bar at Italia market where Mario has been working since he was 13 and he was just a helper, the one of the twins Alessio and Alessandro at Tuscolano III.
Then Mary's bat at Nomentano market, with her coworker Luminiza, who cuddle their customers, nearly all regulars, with coffee at 70 cents, cappuccinos, croissants and homemade tarts, available also in a mini version at 40 cents. At lunch time, in addition to sandwiches, Mary offers some main courses (one day cous cous, the next one cutlets) which can be enjoyed at the little tables with chequed table clothes.
Moreover, in the new area opened after a renovation project by Mercati d'Autore, a real square in the heart of the market, where you can sit, read a newspaper or check your email thanks to the free wifi, eating at Nomentano market has become even easier.
Therefore Modestino, originally from Avellino, and his Roman girlfriend opened De Angelis deli, specialized in food from Campania region: they offer traditional dishes such as maccheroni omelette, pasta with potatoes and provola (smoked cheese) or parmigiana (eggplants, tomato sauce, parmesan or mozzarella).
Streetfood has been the passe-partout to bring food to the market. Little by little in the covered markets have appeared pizza stands or fried food stalls, such as the one at Quadraro market where you can eat one of the top ten supplì (fried rice ball) in town (according to a top ten list by agrodolce.it): Massimo’s stand, while at Italia market the young Eleonora (with her Mom Carla) opened Perpassione, a stall where you can taste fresh salads, vegetables pies, curious sandwiches and hot or cold pasta dishes. With a sweet end.
But the major place for street food is actually Testaccio market, which has become a model of business development and quality of food. Next to Sergio’s historical deli Mordi e Vai (open since 2012 when the market moved to its new location) which offers tripe sandwiches, sausages, scottona beef and boiled meat cooked with picchiapò sauce (tomato, onions and mentuccia leaves). There are In cibo veritas girls who make delicious rice balls and biscuits, all gluten free, Matteo at Zoe’s who prepares fruit salads, salads, fresh squeezed juice and instant extracts to preserves enzymes and other properties. With the help of a nutritionist, he defined a menu of 15 dishes, some permanent, some changing, made with the ingredients he finds at the market. Next to him, chef Marco’s Foodbox, who replaced the Sicilian patisserie Dess’art. “We want street food to be global, not only regional specials, so in addition to the Roman line Supplizio by the chef Arcangelo Dandini (which includes the Jewish artichoke), we offer street food from other Italian locations, such as Sicilian supplì and croquettes, stuffed olives from Ascoli, but also French quiches, American bagels, Venezuelan arepas”.
But the real jewel in Testaccio market’s crown is the Michelin one star Chef Cristina Bowerman’s stand, a second home for her Romeo chef and baker. “Restaurant cuisine went through a revolution in the last few years, some say it’s an INvolution, while for me it’s evolution. We, as chefs, are making a step towards clients, without impact on quality”. So the dynamic Cristina got inspired by raw materials available at the market and invented the “cups”, such as those of ice-creams or Starbucks paper cups. “We wanted to adapt Romeo concept for the market – tells us Chef Cristina – so we were looking for a new idea to replace plates, while the gourmet sandwiches menu is exactly the same. We came up with cups, which can be filled by any food, from prosciutto to pasta, from salads to soups. Another interesting idea is having guest chefs “We are often so busy with managing restaurants, that we don’t have time to cook and be creative, so I thought I would give my colleagues the chance to cook without any rules, to make experiments. It started as a joke, but the list of chefs is becoming longer and longer”.
Another story is the one of fishmonger-restaurants, there are a few in Rome, at Serpentara, Nuovo Salario and Nuovo Cinecittà markets. At Serpentara market there is Falloni family’s fishmonger, where in addition to buying, you can taste raw and fried fish, along with a glass of wine, but also main courses, all prepared with fresh fish, wich up to a few minutes before was exposed on the stall. Open for lunch on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and also in the evening on Friday and Saturday.
At Nuovo mercato Cinecittà there is Pescheria Agraia, a fishmonger which offers a wide choice, also of dishes ready to cook and a small restaurant, open in the evening five days a week (from Tuesday to Saturday, closed on Sunday and Monday). Luigi is the one who got the idea “The fishmonger exists since 2002, when the market was opened, but the idea of selling take away dishes and opening a restaurant came up three or four years ago. The clients are not the same: there are those who buy fish, those who buy the dishes prepared by our chef Fabio, those who come for an aperitivo with raw fish and those who stay for dinner”.
In the section of ready dishes there is not only food, but also vegetables of all kinds, next to prawns on a spit, pickled anchovies, salmon and mozzarella rolls, while the price of the restaurant menus is really competitive (dinner menu at 30 euros, lunch at 15). Luigi tells us: “In spite of the crisis who impacted on everyone, three evenings per week we are sold out, even if we are at the market”.