The age old debate continues, which stylish Italian eatery should be voted, the number 1 in Budapest. In my mind, it's Fausto and Krizia, but running closely behind are two way more popular, more trendy, but not necessarily way cheaper eateries: the Trattoria Toscana and the Ristorante Pomodoro. Both restaurants going for that enviable top Italian eatery title among the well to do 20 and 30 somethings.

Designwise not much separates the two: both going for rustic, homely, Italian/Tuscan/Puglian/Sicilian whatever design. In both cases I make a mental note to write down that the waiting staff have been there for over 4-5 years, at least since Ive been a regular. It's a good thing that you find familiar faces when going back to an eatery, it can make the experience much more pleasant even if the meal is not such a good deal. So perfect service both ways. Pricewise there is also not much of difference. The prices in both joints have been slowly creeping up to a point where I can easily get a shock after getting the final bill. At the end of the day, they represent a pricey outing - about 10 thousand a head if you really want to eat through more courses and have some drinks to go with it.

So the only thing really separating the two in my mind is the food. In both cases very consistent, led by Italian chefs, the quality of coldcuts/fresh pasta/pizza/fish outstanding. The head to head begins with a test of the antipasti. Pomodoro dishes out a green salad, a portion of home tortelloni filled with pumpkin puree and a spinach sauce, a great portion of mussels in white wine sauce and some bruschetta. We gave a shot at the mussels in Toscana as well, accompanied by the famous prawn tatar and the fish tatar trio of salmon swordfish and tuna and we ordered some bruschetta here as well.

The mussels were fresh, but small (and some didn't open) in Pomodoro and fresh, bigger and tastier in Toscana. Somehow the sauce in Pomodoro had a faint taste of stale water... Neither of them came at all close to the freshness and size that we experienced in Arany Kaviár, which was about twice the size of these. The pumpkin puree pasta in Pomodoro was simply delicious, perhaps the best dish of the night, while the Macaroni ordered as a main course was a bit disappointing and bland. The tuna and fish tartare in Toscana were great, and a signature dish of the place. I find the fish trio a bit better as it is put together by the chefs and not the waiters.

The main courses: prawn, risotto and macaroni in Pomodoro and beef tagliata, lamb, monkfish in Toscana. The prawn and macaroni were substandard in Pomodoro - the gigantic king prawn had a mushy, overcooked consistency, while as I said before the pasta was very bland. In this area, Toscana came through again with a wonderful tagliata of beef, an even tastier lamb and a pan fried monkfish with potatoes and porcini mushrooms. Simply great.

We got too drunk in Pomodoro to ask for desserts as we were drinking the fabuolous Mille e una Notte Sicilian wine from 98, but we did order dessert in Toscana. Once again, probably the best profiterol I've had for a long time and a pretty good, although somewhat soft tiramisu. I still prefer the one at Krizia, which can get no better.

The final verdict: Toscana 1: Pomodoro 0.
Trattoria Toscana: 7,5/10
Ristorante Pomodoro: 6,5 /10

But the battle goes on...