“Wanna grab some Italian food?”
“Let’s do it! Váci street?”
If you were to hear this exchange on the street, it is probably from Chinese tourists somehow speaking Hungarian, who have never been to, or even heard of, Budapest. However, Hungary’s number-one tourist rip-off street, Váci, is slowly working its way back to a level of acceptability; it’s no longer like it was 5-6 years ago, when basically the Burger King was the only place where they wouldn’t try to f@#$ you over. The best example of this is the story of Vendetta, which is an incredibly well put together Italian restaurant.
The spot, run by Krisztián Hadzsala, is in the spot of a former C&A clothing store, which should give you some idea as to the size of the place. Portraits of the chefs (or barbers and models) greet you on the walls; it’s a kick-ass idea, the interior section needs some frills, considering that Vendetta’s terrace is so damn big and comfortable, that most people wouldn’t even think of going inside to eat.
The concept is f@#$%^& simple: making good food well, and Italian. Pastas and pizzas have center stage here, but supposedly we have to try the soup as well.
Italian Chicken Soup with Spinach
Now this is the kind of thing, where first we need to figure out what’s going on in the bowl. Grandma and her Sunday chicken soup can go to hell compared to the Vendetta version. Really, the recipe isn’t complicated, it’s good chicken broth taken to the next level with spinach, parmesan, mozzarella, bacon, and sundried tomatoes. Together, this is a culinary orgasm, and more; such fresh and exciting things find their way onto your spoon, that eating this soup really is entertaining.
Strozzapeti con salmone I piselli (Strozzapeti Pasta with Salmon and Peas)
Now here’s the real star of the show. This unpronounceable pasta is an old favorite of mine; a really robust pasta that you can really sink your teeth into, that rolls sauce up into itself. In this, I’d call it the father of all pastas, which heals the age-old schism between sauce and noodles. Mixing it with peas is a good idea, since, when combined with the beastly-big piece of salmon, every flavor is perfectly paired. Finally, a dish that has peas sprouts on it for a reason other than the fact it’s the currently the cheapest garnish.
Pizza spinachi e ricotta (Pizza with Spinach and Ricotta Cheese)
In terms of the pizza, I have a hard time expressing an opinion, since, due to the fact that the city has recently become so full of pizza spots, each one better than the last, my pizza-o-meter seems to have broken. Nevertheless, if I had to choose on the really awesome—boring—total s@#$ scale, I would say this pizza makes it into the really awesome category. Beautiful, oven-baked, classic Italian style + ricotta—oh yeah!
The Real Carbonara
Krisz basically just came up and placed this dish in front of us, saying that this is what a real carbonara looks like. At this point, my stomach was a full house, but somehow this little guy managed to find a way to fit, since this recipe was the real deal. At times like this, you have to ask yourself, what in God’s name was that other carbonara I’ve been eating?
Brioche with Ice Cream
Now this is the thing that, when they put it in front of you, makes you think yourself emperor of life, all the way until you run into the frozen brioche (which, incidentally, isn’t actually frozen). In general, everything is in order, it’s just that the combination of the brioche and cold cause a mild disturbance in the force. On the other hand, the tiramisu is legendary.
Now, this is a place that has spirit. Beautiful and bountiful portions on Váci Street (!), at totally reasonable (although a touch Váci street) prices. I had begun to think that they no longer open good Italian restaurants in the city that do more than shove the same, done-to-death Italian clichés down our throats. At Vendetta, they’ve managed to strike a balance between a tourist-friendly menu and Italian dishes that aren’t quite as much in the limelight. Perhaps nothing shows this better, than the fact that half the diners in the terrace are speaking Hungarian. On Váci. Get it?
Budapest, Váci u. 16a, 1052
0036 30 550 2645
Translated by Tom Szigeti from an article by Péter Csákvári at gastro blog Men & Tál.
Images by Péter Csákvári.