Termini is more than a train station. It’s a gateway to one of Rome’s most diverse areas—and therefore, some of its best eating.
Termini is Rome’s main railway station, and invariably will be where your train arrives if you’re coming from Florence, Venice or any other major city. Inside of it, there are the usual things: coffee bars, gelato chains and of course a McDonalds. There’s also the new Mercato Centrale, a massive market containing stands from Rome’s most famous chefs and purveyors.
Surrounding Termini, though, is a plethora of good things to eat. The Esquilino neighborhood is at once one of the oldest “Roman” neighborhoods, the city’s de-facto Chinatown and home to thousands of immigrants from South Asia.
We’ve assembled a guide for where to eat near Termini station that draws on all of this, from an old-school tavern to the best dumplings in Rome. Whether you’re in need of a great pastry before getting on the train, or a late lunch when you disembark, this guide has it all.
With more than 100 years in business, they must be doing something right at this pastry shop-bar tucked behind Piazza Vittorio. Since they added more tables, Regoli is a fine place to sit in the morning with a coffee and a cornetto. But the pastries are so good that you’ll always leave with a box to take home.
The maritozzi are pure Rome—eggy brioche rolls split open and stuffed with a huge dollop of whipped cream. But only eat one, because you’ll want some room for a wild-strawberry tart, some profiteroles and a nice piece of buttery, jam-covered pie.
2. Hang Zhou
Sonia Zhou is truly one of the most fascinating people in Rome. Born in China, she was part of a wave of immigrants to arrive in Rome in the early 1980s. She worked in Chinese restaurants, something not very popular amongst Romans at the time, until finally opening her own spot.
It was a massive hit, drawing crowds for both its excellent cooking and Sonia’s gregarious, outgoing personality (she was even featured in a Gucci ad 2 years ago). Celebrity aside, it’s still a great place to eat. Juicy, hand-formed dumplings are the stars of the menu—or as they’re called in these parts, ravioli cinesi.
3. Da Danilo
Trattoria Da Danilo, located right near the Piazza Vittorio, is a place where the classic Roman cooking meets an elegance of service and presentation that you won’t find in many other restaurants.
Family owned and operated (Mom is still in the kitchen), this cozy, fun spot is famous for its tableside service. To start, Italian-style steak tartare, mixed before your eyes with capers, shallots and green olive-oil and served with fresh potato chips and grilled bread. Then, the king of Roman pastas, cacio e pepe. But a plate isn’t delivered to your table—a whole wheel of pecorino is, hollowed out so that hot pasta and abundant cheese and pepper can be mixed and tossed in it. Homemade desserts and a deep wine list should round the meal out nicely.
4. Er Buccheto
A few blocks from Termini, amongst B&B’s and fast food, is a time machine.
Since 1890, Er Buchetto (“the little hole,” in Roman dialect) has been serving two things: porchetta and wine. The former is a whole pig, boned out, highly seasoned and slowly roasted until crisp and succulent. Fifth-generation owner Alessandro carves off slices and places them on a sturdy roll, and offers a glass of cold frascati to wash it down. That’s it.
The Roman bakery is more than a place to buy bread and pastries. It’s a social institution, and many of them have tables where you can sample the offerings of the house along with a coffee or a glass of wine.
Few do this better than Panella, a great institution on the Via Merulana right near the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Stop in the morning for a perfect breakfast pastry and an espresso served with a marshmallow-like zabaglione in place of sugar. Or, if you like savory, come for crispy pizza and white wine, or a vast aperitivo selection in the evening. You can’t go wrong, but expect a wait for one of the coveted outside tables
6. Hua Qiao
Rome’s best Chinese food might just be in this nondescript joint right across the street from Termini. Hua Qiao literally means “overseas Chinese,” and the clientele will be mostly that.
Here, the food isn’t lightened or simplified for Italian palates. Chewy noodles come blanketed in rice vinegar and stewed pork. Whole fish are fried and served in a deep dish of spicy oil. You can even try delicacies like calf tendon, chicken feet and marvelous duck tongues. A whole meal, with a cold Italian beer, should cost less than €15.
7. Trattoria Monti
Even though this elegant, friendly restaurant is named for the chic neighborhood of Monti, in reality it’s closer to Esquilino. Trattoria Monti is run by the Camerucci family, who are from the Marche region east of Rome. The food, therefore, is a mix of Roman and Marchegiano, a cuisine full of game and fresh pasta.
Start with an impeccable fritto misto, a heaping plate of fried carrots, broccoli and meat-stuffed olives. Then, the famous tortello, a giant ravioli stuffed with a deep-orange egg yolk. Finally, rabbit stuffed with sausage and truffles. With Mamma Sandra in the kitchen, and her two sons manning the dining room, it’s not an exaggeration to say you’ll feel at home.