The 13 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.

#1 Ristorante Krizia

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.

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#2 Trattoria Pomo D'Oro

Opened in 2002, Trattoria Pomo D'Oro is a highly 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 business customers, tourists, and foodies. 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 range from €10 to €20 — price points aren't outrageous for the quality.

#3 Tom George Budapest

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 €10 to €20. 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.

#4 Fausto’s Ristorante

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 heavy 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.

#5 Alessio Restaurant

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 (€11), 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).

#6 Al Dente

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 Italian classics and regional specialties from Puglia (the head chef is from Bari in southern Italy). The ever-changing daily meat, seafood, and vegetarian pastas are cooked simply and well. Of the Roman-style thin-crust pizzas, go for "Bomba," packing salami, mozzarella, and mushrooms, or the vegetarian "Casanova" with eggplant and gorgonzola. Desserts, however, aren't Al Dente's strong suit — you're better off skipping the unremarable tiramisu and panna cotta.

#7 Il Terzo Cerchio

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).

#8 2 Spaghi Pasta Bar

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. You can't go wrong with any of them and they each cost around €10. Of the stuffed pastas, the ravioli with spinach and ricotta is especially good. If you have some stomach space left, round out your meal with a light panna cotta topped with strawberry sauce (€2).

#9 Trattoria Venezia

A restaurant on Budapest’s car-saturated Grand Boulevard may not be your dream dinner venue, but Trattoria Venezia serves very decent Italian dishes at somewhat lower price points than places in downtown. The seafood dishes — not the strongest suit of landlocked Hungary — are especially good here.

#10 Da Mario Budapest

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.

To remain unbiased, I visit all places incognito and pay for my own meals and drinks. I also never accept money in exchange for coverage. But this means I must rely on readers to support my work. If you're enjoying this article, please consider making a donation.

#11 Porcellino Grasso Ristorante

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 there are few truly memorable dishes so it's fitting that most patrons consist of local residents and businesspeople.

#12 Caffe Gian Mario

Caffe Gian Mario is a family-owned restaurant in Budapest run by Italian natives. A charming man in his 70s, wearing a finely cut wool jacket and a smile hinting of a life well lived, is usually in charge of greeting and seating guests. The service staff, most of whom are also Italians, scurry around and shout half-uttered words to one another over the cramped tables. Despite the seeming chaos, the food arrives quickly.

#13 La Botte Budapest

I can’t blame you if your first instinct is to avoid all restaurants lining Váci utca, Budapest's main shopping street (our version of La Rambla). Food usually takes a back seat in places where hostesses, dressed in folk outfits, lure passersby with "traditional Hungarian tourist menus." La Botte is somewhat of an exception. Only somewhat, because part of the restaurant mimics the neighboring tourist traps, serving goulash soup from an interior adorned with Hungarian countryside decor.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. To remain unbiased, I visit all places incognito and pay for my own meals and drinks. I also never accept money in exchange for coverage. But this means I must rely on readers to support my work. If you've enjoyed this article, please consider making a donation.