Da Mario Budapest

Da Mario is an Italian restaurant in Budapest 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. The high-ceilinged space with leather banquettes and an industrial-chic decor kicks it up a notch compared to the trattoria-type rustic furniture so common in other Italian restaurants of the city. Da Mario’s extensive menu features Italian staples from North to South, from grilled meats to wood-oven pizzas and home made pasta plates.

The executive chef, Alessandro Smanio, is a native of Ferrara in northern Italy. Perhaps this explains why northern Italian classics like risotto and the tortelloni are the standouts at Da Mario. They use a short-grain, high-starch Italian rice, Arborio, along with plenty of parmesan for the rich and creamy risotto. The fish soup, another highlight, boasts a crimson hue and a welcome tangy flavor. 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. It cooks in a tomato-and-clams based sauce, which adds a pleasant acidity.

Some of the dishes, however, can fall flat. The strozzapreti pasta with pesto and shrimp was indistinct because the dough, made without eggs at Da Mario, lacked 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 at Da Mario are in the €15-25 range, which makes it one of the most expensive Italian restaurants in Budapest. Overall, Da Mario delivers reliable, though not exceptional, Italian dishes made from high-quality Italian ingredients at above-average price points.