Da Mario Budapest

Da Mario is a spacious, upscale Italian restaurant in Budapest's downtown, set on a precious piece of real estate between the 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, dark furnishings, and has a bit of corporate feel to it.

Executive chef Alessandro Smanio is a native of Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna, which may explain why northern Italian classics like the ricotta- and spinach-stuffed tortelloni (€12) and the creamy risotto with parmesan (€12) are among the best dishes on the long menu that includes everything from grilled meats to wood-oven pizzas, from pastas to seafood. The Instagram-friendly plate of fish soup arrives teeming with crustacean—langoustine claws project out of the plate—and black mussels, squids, and octopus (€25). But not all dishes are hits: the strozzapreti pasta with pesto and shrimp (€11) was indistinct, and the run-of-the-mill Italian desserts (tiramisu, panna cotta, profiterol) were no better than elsewhere. Note that wines are available from all the major Italian and Hungarian wine regions.

Overall, Da Mario serves reliable, though not exceptional, Italian dishes at above-average price points in Budapest's elite financial and government district. In other words, it's the kind of place that works better for a business meeting than a date night.

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