Caffe Gian Mario

Caffe Gian Mario conjures memories 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.

The wallet-friendly Italian staples, while by no means earth-shattering in flavor or appearance, are prepared simply and well. The highlight is the pasta carbonara (€6), which, the waiter hastens to declare, is strictly the no-cream variety, made with eggs, pecorino, guanciale, and black pepper over spaghetti. You're probably better off skipping the unremarkable pizzas and going straight for the desserts, of which the cannoli (€3) is the best. Caffe Gian Mario also serves breakfast—it's a modest affair, but the lively atmosphere carries over to the morning.

The crowd is a mix of tourists, local Italians, and Hungarian partons. Reservation is a must, and note that they close at 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

We visit all places incognito, pay for our own meals and drinks, and write independent reviews.