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).

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 serves 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.

I only wish that Al Dente upgraded their undersized and uncomfortable folding chairs and flimsy tables, which detract from the dining experience. Also note that they doesn't take reservations, so you may have to wait for a table (grab a drink at Lumen bar down the street while waiting).

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