Da Mario Budapest

Da Mario is an Italian restaurant in Budapest's downtown, set on a precious piece of real estate in-between the Hungarian Parliament Building and Liberty Square, with views onto both from its outdoor terrace. Instead of a trattoria-look, the high-ceilinged space features sleek leather banquettes and an industrial-chic decor. Da Mario’s extensive menu includes Italian staples from North to South, from grilled meats to wood-oven pizzas, from pasta carbonara to risotto.

The executive chef, Alessandro Smanio, is a native of Ferrara in northern Italy. Perhaps this explains why northern Italian classics like risotto and tortelloni are the standouts at Da Mario. As customary, they use Arborio, the short-grain, high-starch Italian rice, and plenty of parmesan for the rich and creamy risotto (€10). It's excellent. The crimson-hued fish soup is another highlight, albeit a pricey one (€21). The instagram-friendly plate arrives teeming with crustacean - langoustine claws are sticking out of the plate - as well as black mussels, squids, and octopus. The branzino also hits all the right notes (€20).

Some of the dishes, however, can fall flat. The strozzapreti pasta with pesto and shrimp (€11) was indistinct, lacking the chewy texture and rich flavor. The run-of-the-mill Italian desserts (tiramisu, panna cotta, profiterol) are perfectly satisfying but don’t exceed those offered elsewhere.

Partly due to the prime location, main dishes are in the €15-25 range, which makes Da Mario one of the most expensive Italian restaurants in Budapest. Overall, Da Mario serves reliable, though not exceptional, Italian dishes made from high-quality ingredients at above-average price points.