Al Dente is one of those under-the-radar neighborhood joints in Budapest you hope others won't find out about so as to keep it all for yourself. Customers will note the Italian chatter wafting from Al Dente's open kitchen through the dining room - always a good sign fo an Italian restaurant. The place is an osteria-type casual eatery serving many of the Italian classics supplemented by regional food from Puglia (the chef is from Bari, the capital city of Puglia in southern Italy). As for Al Dente's location, you couldn't ask for a prettier setting than this quiet side street flanked by high-ceilinged pre-war buildings in Budapest's former Palace Quarter.
Despite the relatively extensive menu, these Italian staples taste exactly as they should. The tagliatelle with cubes of beef tenderloin, porcini, and a creamy chili-laced sauce (€10) alone is worth the visit, but the ever-changing daily meat/seafood/vegetarian pastas are also cooked simply and well. Of the Roman-style thin-crust pizzas, go for the "Bomba," packing salami, Bolognese sauce, mozzarella, and mushrooms, or the vegetarian "Casanova" with eggplant and a tangy gorgonzola sauce. Desserts, however, aren't Al Dente's strong suits - you're better off skipping the unremarable tiramisu and the chocolate ganache topped panna cotta. My only other complaint about Al Dente is the uncomfortable folding chairs and flimsy tables that detract from the top-notch dishes. Note that they don't take reservations so you may have to wait for a table (grab a drink at Lumen bar down the street while waiting).
Al Dente also works well for breakfast, serving excellent Italian morning pastries like cream-filled bomboloni, calzone, and also panzerotto, a fried turnover from Puglia that resembles a calzone, but it's fried, not oven-baked. A few doors down, at 9 Krúdy Gyula Street, the same owners operate a small takeout spot ("Al Dente On The Road") specializing in a greater variety of Italian snacks and pastries including arancini, cannoli, and zeppole.