Everybody loves Italian food and Hungarians are no exception. The Italian food options in Budapest include everything from Neapolitan-style pizza street vendors to northern-Italian fine dining restaurants. Most Italian restaurants in the city, however, dish out reliable, mid-range, pan-Italian classics along the lines of caprese salad, pasta carbonara, branzino, and tiramisu.
Opened in 2002, Pomo D'Oro is a well-known and beloved Italian restaurant in Budapest's Downtown. Pomo D'Oro isn't easy to categorize: it marries a red-sauce old school Italian trattoria and a modern restaurant with gastronomic ambitions. This means it caters equally well to middle-class Hungarian families looking for Italian comfort food, foodies with more adventurous palates, business customers, and tourists. As a result, the ever-expanding space, which has managed to retain an intimate atmosphere, is packed to capacity with an eclectic crowd every night of the week.
Opened in 1997, Ristorante Krizia is one of the longest-serving upscale Italian restaurants in Budapest. Krizia is a popular lunch and dinner destination for Italians living in Budapest, and an Italian restaurant hardly needs a better reference. Owner-chef Graziano Cattaneo hails from the Lombardy region, which means that the menu includes some not-so-common northern-Italian dishes aside from the typical offerings. For example, the veal fillet with porcini mushrooms and a side of polenta, wich is infused with a creamy stracchino cheese is as rare in Budapest as it is delicious.
TG Italiano is an upper-middle priced Italian restaurant located on a highly-touristed downtown street in Budapest. The chic, spacious interior complete with an outdoor terrace (heated and covered in the colder months) is a tourist-favorite thanks to its central location and reliable dishes. .
Opened in 1994, Fausto’s Ristorante is a classic fine dining restaurant in Budapest with some nods to northern Italian cuisine. Fausto's claims that its dishes are “sprinkled with the latest arts of contemporary cuisine.” What this means is that instead of the standard caprese- and pizza-driven menu, Fausto's prepares meticulously plated dishes made with a host of fancy ingredients that include scallops, flatfish, and venison loin, and served in a classic fine dininig setting. Those looking for simpler Italian fare, a couple of pasta options are also available: tagliatelle and risotto plates made with rich, heavy sauces. .
Never mind the black-and-white photos of Italy on the walls, little of Alessio’s interior will remind you that you’re in an Italian restaurant. Instead, the densely carpeted space with crammed tables and white linen tablecloths feels more like a charming neighborhood joint tailored to the tastes of the local middle- and upper-class residents of this elite Buda neighborhood. .
Ristorante Millennium da Pippo is a reliable Italian restaurant located on Andrássy Avenue, Budapest’s most famous street that’s often compared to the Champs-Élysées. It's on the farther and quieter section, away from the noisy downtown. The trattoria-like interior pulls inspiration from the century-old subway stations located underneath Andrássy (not that patrons need much of a reminder: at the outdoor terrace they can actually feel the ground slightly shake when a train passes). .
Al Dente is one of those under-the-radar neighborhood joints in Budapest you hope others won't find out about so as to keep it all for yourself. Customers will note the Italian chatter wafting from Al Dente's open kitchen through the dining room - always a good sign fo an Italian restaurant. The place is an osteria-type casual eatery serving many of the Italian classics supplemented by regional food from Puglia (the chef is from Bari, the capital city of Puglia in southern Italy). As for Al Dente's location, you couldn't ask for a prettier setting than this quiet side street flanked by high-ceilinged pre-war buildings in Budapest's former Palace Quarter.
2 Spaghi’s mission is simple: prepare made-to-order fresh pasta simply and well. Customers are invited to pair a variety pasta shapes (fusilli, bucatini, tagliatelle, etc.) with an often-changing list of popular sauces and toppings. For example, on any given day the Italian chefs at 2 Spaghi might make cacio e pepe, carbonara, puttanesca, amatriciana, and aglio, olio e peperoncino sauces. You can't go wrong with any of them.
I can’t blame you if your first instinct is to avoid all restaurants lining Váci Street, Budapest’s version of La Rambla. When hostesses dressed in folk outfits try to lure unsuspecting passersby with traditional Hungarian tourist menus, the right thing to do usually is to swiftly move on. La Botte is somewhat of an exception. Only somewhat, because parts of it mimic the neighboring restaurants, meaning that goulash tops the menu and the interior features the stereotypical bric-a-brac decor complete with red and white checkered tablecloths.
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. .
Most of the pizza you will find in Budapest’s countless Italian restaurants feel like afterthoughts, added to the menu for the sake of completeness. This isn’t the case at Igen, a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint located at the entrance of Budapest’s Party District. .
Pizzica is Budapest’s first pizzeria that serves pizza al taglio: it’s a Roman invention where rectangular shaped pies are sliced with scissors and usually taken to-go. The tiny takeout space is run by Italian-native Paolo de Bartolomeo and his brother, who can be found most days sliding the cast-iron pans in and out of the electric oven at Pizzica. .
A restaurant located along Budapest’s car-saturated Grand Boulevard may not be your dream dinner venue, but diners who come to Trattoria Venezia will find outstanding Italian dishes at somewhat lower prices than those served in downtown. .
Il Terzo Cerchio has been serving Italian comfort food in Budapest’s historic Jewish Quarter for well over a decade. The exposed brick vaulted ceiling and rustic wooden furniture attempt to evoke the Tuscan countryside vibes on this Budapest sidestreet. .
Porcellino Grasso is a popular Italian restaurant tucked away on the serene Rózsadomb hill. The neighborhood is the most exclusive residential area on the Buda side of Budapest, if not the whole city..
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 what TripAdvisor might tell you, there’re plenty of Italian restaurants in Budapest serving tastier food at lower price points than Bottega di Bontolo. Unfortunately, too many dishes fall short at this downtown restaurant located on a side street off the highly-touristed Váci Street. .
Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito.