Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nebo: Two Sisters, One Delicious Cuisine

Located on the outskirts of the North End, Nebo may not get the foot traffic that you'll find on Hanover Street. But as it is so close to the TD Garden, it is a popular spot for those attending sporting events or other Garden events. If you have never eaten there, you need to make an effort to dine there, and savor their delicious cuisine. I had been remiss, and not eaten there until recently, when I was invited to the restaurant and got to meet the owners, Carla and Christine Pallotta.

Carla (on the right) and Christine Pallotta, sisters, previously owned a hair salon in Reading for 23 years. I should also note that they lived in Stoneham for a number of years, and I even went to high school with Christine. After all that time with the salon, they started to grow bored, and wanted a new challenge. They started to consider opening their own restaurant, in the North End, where they had spent many years of their life.

Everything seemed to come together quite fast, and they opened Nebo in June 2005. Thus their fifth anniversary is just around the corner, an admirable achievement. Nebo is an acronym for "North End BOston." Many of their recipes derive from their grandmother and mother, though neither ever wrote down anything. So, prior to the restaurant opening, Carla and Christine scrambled to try to write down recipes while watching their mother prepare various dishes. Much of the cuisine reflects the region of Puglia, which is said to be the "cuisine of peasants" as they would use whatever ingredients were available in their cooking.

Tradition is very important to Carla and Christine. For example, they use rolling pins to make their pasta rather than a machine. Their father had done the same, even making rolling pins out of old broom handles. The sisters also shop locally in the North End, in some of the same places their parents once patronized.

Carla and Christine wanted to create a restaurant of small plates, where diners could share with each other. They did not think there was any other restaurant in the North End that specialized in such. Their motto is "Simplicity demands the finest ingredients" and they seem to follow this motto very closely. In addition, all of their pasta, pizza dough and bread is made fresh daily in house.

I found both Carla and Christine to be very personable and passionate women, truly devoted to their restaurant and desirous of providing delicious and high quality cuisine. They were also very down to earth, fun to chat with, and genuine.

The restaurant is both casual and elegant, with lots of natural wood and brick. They can seat about 120 people, and also have a long bar, marble topped, with plasma televisions. It is a place you can bring a date, your family, or a group of guys prior to a Boston Bruins game.

They have a fully stocked bar, with specialty cocktails, including their own Sangria. I am very particular about my Sangria, and did enjoy theirs. They also have about 19 wines, all Italian, available by the glass ($7-$14). Their wine list by the bottle, also all Italian, has many selections in the $30s, as well as higher-end wines like fine Barolos. So you can find plenty of reasonably priced choices.

The food menu includes Antipasti (averaging $10-$15), Insalate, Carne, Bruschetta, and Handmade Pasta ($18-$21). They serve over 20 different types of Pizza ($11-$17) and you can also customize your own. Whatever your preferences, you should find something here which appeals to you.

It is also important to add that they have a lengthy Gluten free menu. They created this menu after learning one of their friends had Celiac disease, and they investigated the disease further. Nebo is probably one of the few Boston restaurants to have such an extensive gluten free menu.

So what about the food? I was impressed.

The Arancini ($10) were porcini mushroom & mozzarella stuffed rice balls drizzled in chestnut honey. The honey seems an odd choice, as usually arancini have a red sauce accompaniement, but it actually worked. The aracini themselves had a nice crispy coating with a soft, cheesy interior and an earthy bite. The sweetness of the honey did not overwhelm, and made an interesting counterpart to the earthiness from the mushrooms.

The Burrata ($15) was a cream-filled mozzarella with Proscuitto di Parma and a balsamic fig glaze. The quality of the ingredients was quite evident, from the creamy delights of the burrata to the salty tang of the Prosciutto and the sweetness of the balsamic. A simple dish elevated by the fine ingredients.

The Salumi Misti ($13/$27) was a plate of prosciutto di parma, bresaola, hot capicola, abruzzese sausage, formaggi and pepperonata. Once again, a simple dish with high quality ingredients. It will bring out your inner carnivore. The pepperonata, which is homemade, was delicious, with a nice spicy kick.

I cannot fail to mention their homemade potato bread, which was a perfect accompaniement to these antipasti. For a bread lover like me, this was quite tasty. I could have just made a meal of the bread, antipasti and some wine.

The Timballo di Melanzana ($13) was an eggplant and mozzarella timbale in a fresh tomato sauce. I am usually not a fan of eggplant, though I have been a couple places where I have very much enjoyed it. I have to add Nebo to that list now. It was very tender, with plenty of melted mozzarella and a delicious red sauce.

One of the Specials of the evening was a Veal Milanese dish, which is buried beneath the arugula, cheese and tomatoes. There actually was plenty of very tender, thin sliced veal with a light, crispy coating. The veal was not tough in any way, and was prepared just right. There was a chicken milanese available as well and I suspect it would have been equally as good.

I had to try the Pappardelle alla Bolognese ($19), which is a dish I often use as a standard in assessing Italian restaurants. Their Bologonese is a blend of slow cooked veal, pork and beef with tomato, cream, and pecorino romano. As you can see, it was a very meaty sauce (a big plus) and the taste was exquisite, just a proper blend of harmonious flavors. A hearty dish, sure to satisfy any hunger.

Then we moved onto a few pizzas, which are all good-sized (easily serving 2-3 people) with a thin crust. The Michael Diavolo ($15) comes with pepperoni, bacon, traditional sauce, and mozzarella. I very much enjoyed the red sauce, and all of the elements of the pizza worked well. As a pizza lover, this definitely satisfied me, and I think it is a very good value too. The Quattro Formaggi ($15), a blend of fontina, gorgonzola, provolone, mozzarella, was another winner, also showing that the pizza did not need red sauce to be delicious.

The most interesting pizza though was the Pizza con Patate ($16), which contains pancetta, golden potato slices, gorgonzola, rosemary, evoo, and mozzarella. The flavors on this pizza really stood out, especially the gorgonzola and rosemary, yet none of them overwhelmed. The potatoes added a nice texture and taste to the pizza, and the pancetta added a bit of smoky saltiness. You definitely should try this pizza.

Yet my feast was not over, as dessert was still to come.

The mound of Zeppole was showered with powdered sugar. And though these fried treats were plentiful and good, I think they could have used a dipping sauce, like melted chocolate or even caramel sauce. On their own, they were a bit plain.

I am not a fan of Ricotta Pie but this actually did not taste too bad to me. It had a firm texture, with a nice creaminess. I believe that if you do like Ricotta pie, then this would very much appeal to you.

My favorite of the desserts was the Christoforo pizza ($13), which is sweet pizza dough topped with chocolate, nutella and hazelnuts. Sweet pizza you ask? Yes, it works very well, a delightful blend of sweet crust with chocolate and hazelnut flavors. It was not overly sweet, and made for a great ending to my meal.

Service was excellent. Overall, I was impressed with the food, as well as with Carla and Christine. I have often cited my love for the small plates concept, and Nebo delivers on that. With their high quality ingredients, even the simplest of dishes is a delight. Their pizzas alone are reason enough to dine here. So take a detour from Hanover Street and find your way to Nebo.

90 North Washington Street
(North End)
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-723-NEBO (6326)

Nebo on Urbanspoon


restaurant reviews said...

The images of the food made my mouth water! I will definitely have to give this restaurant a try. I can only image how good the food will be if in fact it's as good as it looks (which I'm sure it is)...



Frederick Wright said...

What an excellent review, beautifully photographed and well-written. You make me want to visit this place right now. In fact, I'm putting it on my list immediately since they are available on OpenTable. Keep up the great work seeking out these places that are somewhat off the beaten path but still right in the heart of our city.