The Pallotta sisters, who own NEBOCucina & Enoteca, a North End hot spot that recently moved to the burgeoning waterfront neighborhood, vibrate with energy. And they (Christine and Carla, though it’s hard to tell them apart) talk a mile a minute about a gazillion things. Their F-bomb-laced, ping-pong-match conversations zig from stories about their mother, Angelina (their true north and the backbone of Nebo’s kitchen), then zag to “spuckies” (the sandwiches on their new lunch menu) to stories about Carmen (the cheese guy, who was put in shackles by the FBI in front of their old spot). It’s reverential. It’s nurturing. It can be hard to follow.
NEBO, which originally stood for “North End Boston,” now stands for “North End Brought Over,” since the Italian restaurant moved and reopened in June 2013. NEBO is their world, and for these two sisters from Endicott Street in the North End, family is everything. Ergo, those who enter NEBO are family.
High ceilings and a large antique mirror behind the bar reflect NEBO’s warm, airy atmosphere
The restaurant first opened in June 2005 on Washington Street, around the corner from the Boston Garden (brother Jim is part owner of the Celtics), so sports stars quickly became part of the “family.” “We respect what they do, but we don’t drool over them,” says Christine. “We treat them like everybody else.” Their first restaurant was trial and error, “especially in the beginning,” says Carla. Christine chimes in: “If we had any idea how much work this would be, I’m not sure we’d be doing it.” Then she laughs. Then Carla laughs. They know this is exactly what they are supposed to be doing.
“The rent tripled at our first place,” says Christine, “and we thought, This is it. Then Jim [the brother with a financial Midas touch] called about this space. We jumped back in.” Hugging Atlantic Avenue with a long patch of the Greenway and the Financial District in front, the InterContinental Hotel to their right, and the harbor in back, the 1800s former shipping warehouse got stripped to the bones. All the artwork—black and white photos taken in Italy—is by Carla and Christine, examples of which include two nuns walking together down a narrow street. (Carla can’t help herself: “Get it? Sistahs?”) The simple wooden tables were designed by the sisters as well, to honor their beloved deceased father, a master carpenter. With the open kitchen, the Venetian plaster behind the bar, the exposed ductwork, steel beams, and the all-Italian wine list—you betcha, the whole place is their vision. During most days both sisters don chef coats and work alongside their mother in the kitchen.
NEBO’s vegetable lasagna
Then there is the food! While the dining room is industrial, slick, and chic, the food is soul-satisfying, old-school Italian. NEBO has been busy since day one at its new location with “suits” from the business district, neighborhood locals, and NEBO-loyal sports fans. “For a lot of people, we are a good-luck charm and part of their pregame routine for the Celtics and Bruins,” says Carla. Others come just for the tripe. “Only Christine can make it. Nobody else gets it just right.” And with good reason—it is a simple, slow-braised dish, rich in tomato sauce. Others come for the pizza topped with mozzarella made fresh daily in Everett. “Don’t get me stah-tid on the story of that pizza oven,” laughs Christine. Others still come for the zucchini lasagna, which won them bragging rights when they took down celebrity chef Bobby Flay on his own Food Network show, Throwdown with Bobby Flay. He picked that fight—he should have known better. Nobody messes with the Pallotta sisters. 520 Atlantic Ave., 617-723-6326