The 10 Best Italian Restaurants In Budapest

Everybody loves Italian food and Hungarians are no exception. In Budapest, you'll find everything from Naples-style pizzerias to elaborate northern-Italian restaurants, but most places don't specialize in any particular region, instead putting out reliable, mid-range, pan-Italian fare along the lines of Caprese salad, pasta carbonara, and good old tiramisu.

Opened in 2002, Trattoria Pomo D'Oro is a popular Italian restaurant in Budapest's downtown marrying a red-sauce, old-school Italian trattoria with a modern establishment. This means the place draws everyone from middle-class Hungarian families looking for Italian comfort food to office workers and tourists. As a result, the ever-expanding space, which has managed to retain a cozy vibe, is packed to capacity with a mixed crowd every day of the week. While not cheap by Budapest standards — mains are €15-20 — price points aren't outrageous for the quality.

It's hard to go wrong with anything, but highlights include the rich, Tuscan tomato soup (pappa al pomodoro), the strozzapreti hand-rolled pasta, and the branzino fillet, be it grilled or steamed and filled with pancetta and black mussels. The pizzas, prepared in a wood-burning oven, skew Neapolitan with an airy crust. Do save room for dessert as the profiterole and the good old tiramisu are among the best you'll find in Budapest. Often overrun by business people from the nearby financial district during the day, Pomo D'Oro is most enjoyable in the evenings. Reservations are an absolute must.

Opened in 1997 by owner-chef Graziano Cattaneo, a native from Lombardy, Krizia comes closest in Budapest to offering a true-to-Italy ristorante experience. The place is located inside an elegant below-ground space on a quiet street in Budapest's District 6, near the city center. The snug restaurant has less than a dozen tables — all of them covered in white linen — and adorably ceremonial servers, especially the older of the two long-time waiters.

The menu features typical northern Italian fare like lasagne and tortelloni, the latter also available with a foie gras-filling in case you'd like a special treat. I also enjoy Krizia's creamy risotto — to be eaten with a spoon — and the sliced filet mignon with porcini mushrooms and a side of stracchino cheese-infused polenta. The wine list comprises everything from Lambruscos to Chiantis and Brunellos, and you can round out your meal in Italian style with a splash of Fernet or some other amaro. Mains are €15-20. Note that Krizia serves a wallet-friendly, though less elaborate, lunch prix-fixe on weekdays.

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Tom George is a chic Italian restaurant on a tourist-heavy downtown street in Budapest. The highlight of the spacious restaurant is the outdoor terrace — heated and covered in the colder months — that's perfect for people watching. The reliably made pan-Italian dishes include everything from salads to pastas to wood-oven pizzas to steaks and range in price from €15 to €25. Those with a sweet tooth should not miss the seasonal desserts, which might include torta della nonna, a custardy Tuscan treat, or a classic millefoglie. There's a long wine list of both Italian and Hungarian bottles.

While the food isn't revolutionary, Tom George is one of those trendy, high-turnover restaurants with consistent dishes and a professional service. It can get crowded, so be sure to book in advance.

Fausto’s Ristorante, which opened in 1994, is a classic fine dining restaurant in Budapest with a hat-tip to northern Italian fare. Forget pizza and Caprese salad; here scallops, foie gras, flatfish, and venison loin are the gastronomic currency. A couple of egg pasta and risotto are also available, made with deliciously rich sauces. The decor is traditional fine dining: soft background music drifts from the background of the dim dining room, which has only a dozen tables, all set with crisp linen tablecloths.

Under the vigilant eyes of owner Fausto Di Vora, always dressed in a chef's coat, an army of waiters quietly scurry around the tables that tend to fill up on Friday and Saturday evenings with well-heeled tourists and local businesspeople. Instead of a tasting menu, most people opt for à la carte whose mains are €28-35. The wine list is deep with both Italian and Hungarian options.

If you like Italian food and would like a break from the bustle of the city center, head over to Alessio. With densely carpeted floors and crammed tables, this charming neighborhood restaurant is tailored to the local residents of this elite Buda neighborhood. Little about the interior will evoke the Tuscan countryside, but the dishes can hold their own. Alessio’s claim to fame, the garlic shrimp, is actually a Spanish classic (gambas al ajillo), arriving in a sizzling sauce of olive oil, chili, and garlic. It's impossible to stop eating (use the bread to mop up the rich leftover sauce to the last drop).

Other standouts include the grilled octopus and the tender and moist branzino fillet. The only dud I came across was the tiramisu of all things — it was too crumbly and the ladyfingers weren't integrated in the mascarpone — but it was much better on a later visit. Mains are €15-20.

Al Dente is one of those under-the-radar neighborhood restaurants in Budapest you hope others won't find out about so as to keep it all to yourself. This osteria-type casual eatery within Budapest's charming Palace Quarter serves pan-Italian classics. The ever-changing daily meat, seafood, and vegetarian pastas are cooked simply and well. The pizzas lean Naples style, and you can round out a meal with homemade tiramisu, panna cotta, or cannoli. If you need to wait for a table, grab a drink at Lumen, one of my favorite Budapest bars two minutes from here on Horánszky Street.

Il Terzo Cerchio is a reliable mid-range Italian restaurant in Budapest’s historic Jewish Quarter. A brick vaulted ceiling, rustic wooden furniture, and a wood-burning oven help evoke Tuscan countryside vibes on this Budapest side street (the restaurant's moniker is a reference to Dante's third circle of hell where gluttons were punished).

The food here isn’t going to blow your mind, but the pastas, seafoods, grilled meats, and pizzas are all reliable. The creamy and flavorful tomato soup, and the tagliatelle coated in pungent Tuscan sausage and a mild stracchino cheese sauce are especially good. The pizzas, flaunting a puffy crust and a moist center, gravitate toward the Neapolitan-style. Hungarian and Italian wines are also available. Mains are €10-15.

Run by three Italian natives, 2 Spaghi is a small pasta shop in Budapest with an endearingly simple mission: serve fresh, made-to-order pasta dishes quickly and well. You're invited to pair a variety of pasta shapes (fusilli, bucatini, tagliatelle, etc.) with a rotating set of sauces. On any day, there might be cacio e pepe, carbonara, puttanesca, amatriciana, and aglio, olio e peperoncino listed on the blackboard. All of them consistently good and about €12 each.

If you have stomach space left, round out your meal with a light panna cotta with strawberry sauce. Note that 2 Spaghi is located inside Gozsdu Udvar, a tourist-heavy area lined with overpriced bars and restaurants. I can't help thinking that this charming pasta eatery would deserve a more worthy home, but if you don't like the vibes, you can also just buy some fresh pasta to go.

Da Mario is a pricey modern Italian restaurant in Budapest, set on a precious piece of downtown real estate between the Hungarian Parliament building and Liberty Square, with views onto both from its outdoor terrace. Instead of a trattoria vibe, the polished, high-ceilinged space features sleek leather banquettes and dark furnishings. Being within the city's financial and government district, business meals here are more typical than date nights.

Executive chef Alessandro Smanio is a native of Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna, which explains why northern Italian classics like the ricotta and spinach-stuffed tortelloni and the creamy risotto with parmesan are among the top dishes. The long menu also features grilled meats, wood-oven pizzas, pastas, and seafood. The Instagram-friendly fish soup arrives teeming with crustacean — langoustine claws project out of the plate — black mussels, squids, and octopus. Not all dishes are hits: the strozzapreti pasta with pesto and shrimp was unremarkable, and the standard Italian desserts (tiramisu, panna cotta, profiterol) tasted no better than elsewhere. Mains are €18-25.

Porcellino Grasso is a popular Italian neighborhood restaurant on Rózsadomb, an exclusive residential enclave on the Buda side of Budapest. Accordingly, grand, secluded villas line the streets near the restaurant. Porcellino serves reliable Italian comfort food, but few are the truly memorable dishes so it's fitting that most patrons are local residents and office workers.

Among the better options are the tomato bruschetta, the wood-oven pizzas, and the seafood spaghetti. Given the scenic hillside location, the attentive service staff, and the deep wine list, Porcellino could easily become a sought-after destination for fans of Italian food, but the kitchen would need to put out more convincing flavors. Mains are €18-25.