Caffe Gian Mario

As soon as you enter Caffe Gian Mario, it will conjure the 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 Italians, peripatetically rotate 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 not earth-shattering in flavor or appearance, are prepared simply and well. The menu is mainly dedicated to pizzas, and a range of salads and pasta dishes. The highlight is the pasta carbonara, which, as the waiter hastens to declare, is strictly the no-cream variety, instead using the classic eggs-, parmesan-, guanciale-, and black pepper-based sauce over spaghetti. You're probably better off skipping the unremarkable pizzas, and going straight for the desserts, of which the cannoli is the best. Caffe Gian Mario also serves a somewhat meager breakfast, but the lively atmosphere carries over to the morning.

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