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 that serves Italian classics and regional specialties from Puglia (the chef is from Bari, the capital city of Puglia in southern Italy; you will note the Italian chatter wafting from the open kitchen through the dining room, which is always a good sign for an Italian restaurant). Al Dente is located in a charming and quiet side street flanked by high-ceilinged, pre-war buildings in Budapest's Palace Quarter.

Despite the extensive menu, these Italian dishes taste exactly as they should. The tagliatelle with cubes of beef tenderloin, porcini, and a creamy, chili-laced sauce (€11) is excellent, 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 suit - you're better off skipping the unremarable tiramisu and the chocolate ganache-topped panna cotta.

Al Dente also works well for breakfast. They serve 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.

My only issue with Al Dente is their uncomfortable chairs and tables: the undersized folding chairs and flimsy tables can detract from the dining experience.

Note that Al Dente doesn't take reservations, so you may have to wait for a table (grab a drink at Lumen bar down the street while waiting).