Everybody loves Italian food, and Hungarians are no exception. In Budapest, you will find everything from Naples-style pizzerias to elaborate northern-Italian restaurants, but most places don't specialize in any particular region, instead putting out reliable, mid-range, pan-Italian fare along the lines of Caprese salad, pasta carbonara, saltimbocca, and tiramisu.
Opened in 1997 by owner-chef Graziano Cattaneo, an Italian native from Lombardy, Krizia is an elegant, below-ground restaurant hiding in a quiet street in Budapest's District 6 near the city center. The snug space has less than a dozen tables—all of them covered in white linen—and adorably ceremonial servers, especially the older of the two long-time waiters..
Pomo D'Oro, which opened in 2002, is a wildly popular and beloved Italian restaurant in Budapest's downtown, marrying a red-sauce, old school Italian trattoria and a modern restaurant with gastronomic ambitions. This means it appeals equally well to middle-class Hungarian families looking for pan-Italian comfort food, foodies with more adventurous palates, business customers, and tourists. As a result, the ever-expanding space, which has retained a homey atmosphere, is packed to capacity with a mixed crowd every day of the week. While not cheap by Budapest standards—mains range from €10 to €20—price points aren't outrageous for its calibre.
TG Italiano (Tom George) is a pricey Italian restaurant on a tourist-heavy downtown street in Budapest. The spacious restaurant features a chic interior complete with an outdoor terrace that's heated and covered in the colder months, making it a perfect spot for people watching..
Fausto’s Ristorante, which opened in 1994, is a classic fine dining restaurant in Budapest specializing in northern Italian fare. Forget pizza and Caprese salad and instead think of meticulously plated dishes made from expensive ingredients like foie gras, scallops, flatfish, and venison loin. A couple of egg-based pasta and risotto options are also available, made with rich sauces..
Never mind the black-and-white photos of Italy on the walls, little of Alessio’s interior will remind you of an Italian restaurant. Instead, the densely carpeted space with crammed tables feels like a charming neighborhood joint tailored to the tastes of the middle- and upper-class residents of this elite Buda neighborhood. If you need a break from the bustle of the city center, Alessio is a perfect hideaway, offering excellent food and a homey atmosphere. .
Ristorante Millennium da Pippo is a reliable Italian restaurant on Andrássy Avenue, Budapest’s most famous street that’s often compared to the Champs-Élysées. The place's interior pulls inspiration from the century-old subway stations located underneath Andrássy (not that you will need a reminder: on the outdoor terrace you can feel the ground slightly shake every time a train passes). .
Al Dente is one of those under-the-radar neighborhood restaurants in Budapest you hope others won't find out about so as to keep it all for yourself. It's an osteria-type casual eatery in Budapest's charming Palace Quarter, serving Italian classics and regional specialties from Puglia (the head chef is from Bari in southern Italy; you will note the Italian chatter wafting from the open kitchen through the dining room, always a good sign for an Italian restaurant). .
Run by three Italians, 2 Spaghi is a small pasta shop in Budapest with a simple mission: serve fresh, made-to-order pastas quickly and well. Customers are invited to pair a variety of pasta shapes (fusilli, bucatini, tagliatelle, etc.) with an often-changing list of sauces. On any day, there might be cacio e pepe, carbonara, puttanesca, amatriciana, and aglio, olio e peperoncino sauces listed on the blackboard. The good news is that you can't go wrong with any of them.
A restaurant on Budapest’s car-saturated Grand Boulevard may not be your dream dinner venue, but Trattoria Venezia serves outstanding Italian dishes at somewhat lower prices than places in downtown. The seafood dishes—not the strongest suit of landlocked Hungary—are especially good here..
Da Mario is a spacious, upscale Italian restaurant in Budapest's downtown, set on a precious piece of real estate between the Parliament building and Liberty Square, with views onto both from its outdoor terrace. Instead of a trattoria-look, the high-ceilinged space features sleek leather banquettes, dark furnishings, and has a bit of corporate feel to it. .
Il Terzo Cerchio has been serving Italian comfort food in Budapest’s historic Jewish Quarter for well over a decade. A brick vaulted ceiling, rustic wooden furniture, and a wood-burning oven help evoke Tuscan countryside vibes on this Budapest side street. The restaurant's moniker is a reference to Dante's third circle of hell, where gluttons were punished. .
Porcellino Grasso is a popular Italian restaurant on Rózsadomb (Rose Hill), the most exclusive neighborhood on the Buda side of Budapest, if not the whole city. Accordingly, grand, secluded villas line the streets that surround the restaurant. Porcellino serves reliable, pan-Italian fare, but I’m hard-pressed to single out an unforgettable dish that would make it worth crossing the Danube from Pest. So, it’s fitting that most patrons are well-heeled local residents at this spacious, two-story restaurant boasting a sizeable outdoor patio and even a private playground for small children..
I can’t blame you if your first instinct is to avoid all restaurants on Váci Street, Budapest’s version of La Rambla. You know it's time to move on when hostesses, dressed in folk outfits, try to lure you with "traditional Hungarian tourist menus." La Botte is somewhat of an exception. Only somewhat, because part of the restaurant mimics the neighboring places, serving goulash soup amid a rustic Hungarian countryside decor complete with red-and-white tablecloths..
As soon as you enter, Caffe Gian Mario will conjure images of a stereotypical family-owned Italian restaurant. A charming man in his 70s, wearing a finely cut wool jacket and a smile on his face that hints of a life well lived, is usually in charge of greeting and seating guests. The service staff, most of whom are also Italian, scurry around and shout half-uttered words to one another over the cramped tables. Despite the seeming chaos, food arrives quickly at Caffe Gian Mario.
Despite what TripAdvisor might tell you, there are plenty of Italian restaurants in Budapest that serve tastier food at lower price points than Bottega di Bontolo. Unfortunately, too many dishes fall short at this downtown restaurant located on a side street off the tourist-heavy Váci Street..