The 13 Best Italian Restaurants
Opened in 1997 by owner-chef Graziano Cattaneo, an Italian 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.
#2Trattoria Pomo D’Oro
Opened in 2002, Trattoria Pomo D’Oro is a wildly popular Italian restaurant in Budapest’s downtown that marries a red-sauce, old-school Italian trattoria with a modern restaurant. This means that the place draws everyone from middle-class Hungarian families looking for Italian comfort food to foodies, business customers, 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 range from €10 to €20—price points aren’t outrageous for its caliber.
#3Tom George Budapest
Tom George is a chic Italian restaurant on a tourist-heavy downtown street in Budapest. The spacious restaurant features an outdoor terrace — heated and covered in the colder months— that’s perfect for people watching. The pan-Italian dishes include everything from Caprese salad (€10) to pappardelle with a homemade Bolognese sauce (€13), wood-oven pizzas, and a Chianina rib eye (€27).
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 lingua franca. A couple of egg pasta and risotto are also available, made with deliciously rich sauces.
If you like Italian food and need 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 neighborhood on the Buda side. Little about the interior will evoke the Tuscan countryside, but the dishes here are better than in most Italian restaurants of Budapest.
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. It’s an osteria-type casual eatery in Budapest’s charming Palace Quarter serving Italian classics and regional specialties from Puglia (the head chef is from Bari in southern Italy).
#7Il Terzo Cerchio
Il Terzo Cerchio has been serving Italian comfort food in Budapest’s historic Jewish Quarter for well over a decade. 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 Il Terzo Cerchio serves reliable mid-range Italian fare, featuring pasta, seafood, grilled meats, and pizza.
#82 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 an often-changing list of sauces. On any day, there might be cacio e pepe, carbonara, puttanesca, amatriciana, and aglio, olio e peperoncino sauces listed on the blackboard. You can’t go wrong with any of them. They each cost around €10.
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.
#10Da Mario Budapest
Da Mario is a modern Italian restaurant in Budapest, set on a precious piece of downtown real estate between the 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 inside the city’s financial and government district, business dinners here are more typical than date nights.
#11Porcellino Grasso Ristorante
Porcellino Grasso is a popular Italian restaurant on Rózsadomb (Rose Hill), the most exclusive neighborhood on the Buda side of Budapest, if not the whole city. Accordingly, grand, secluded villas line the streets surrounding the restaurant. While Porcellino serves reliable Italian comfort food, I’m hard-pressed to single out any one dish that would make it worth crossing the Danube from Pest. So, it’s fitting that most patrons are local residents at this spacious, two-story restaurant boasting a sizeable outdoor patio and even a private playground for small children.
#12Caffe Gian Mario
Caffe Gian Mario conjures memories 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 Italian, scurry around and shout half-uttered words to one another over the cramped tables. Despite the seeming chaos, food arrives quickly at Caffe Gian Mario.
#13La Botte Budapest
I can’t blame you if your first instinct is to avoid all restaurants lining Váci Street, Budapest’s version of La Rambla. Food usually takes a back seat in places where hostesses, dressed in folk outfits, lure you 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 rustic Hungarian countryside decor.