This is the 9th post of I’ve written in May as part of my #21PostsInMay Challenge where I aim to write a new post every single weekday in the month of May. You can see all posts written in May here.
Even though I've lived in Boston for over 20 years, I'm still amazed at the new things I keep learning about the city.
I was at Nebo, an Italian restaurant in the financial district of Boston opened by Italian sisters Carla and Christine Pallotta, for a media event sponsored by Backyard Farms Tomatoes. Carla and Christine had developed a fun tasting menu using Backyard Farms tomatoes for us to try.
As we sat down, they started telling stories.
Carla and Christine grew up in the North End. Their mother was an excellent cook, and cooked real Italian food from their homeland. Living in the North End, it was easy to just walk down the street to the local butcher for meat, the local market for fresh produce, and the cheesemonger for cheese.
"Did you know that different areas of the North End stand for different regions of Italy?"
Apparently, one section consists of people from Abbruzi; another section, people from Puglia. Then there's the neighborhood of Romans, and another neighborhood full of Sicilians.
"We usually just stayed in our own areas. We seldom went all the way on the other side of the North End into those other neighborhood."
Which is funny, considering how tiny the North End really is.
In 2005, Carla and Christine decided to open Nebo, incorporating family recipes from their mother and grandmother, as well as creating new recipes inspired by their trips to Italy.
Our lunch tasting consisted of some regular menu items and some special dishes made with Backyard Farms tomatoes. We started with Salumi Misti, a board of beautifully cured meats: prosciutto di Parma, mortadella, finocchiona salami, coppa, and speck ($16 for a small; $28 for a large). These were served with a side of Backyard Farms vine ripe tomato jam. The tomato jam was made with chili powder, ginger, and cinnamon.
The next course was Insalata Caprese ($15) made with Backyard Farms Somerset pink tomato, burrata, saba, and extra virgin olive oil. The Somerset Pinks are a new variety of tomato that Backyard Farms just released. It took over two years of research to get the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity in this beefsteak tomato.
It was delicious, and made magic with the luxurious Italian burrata.
Next we had Veraci in Brodo, a delicious seafood dish that consisted of baby clams, finnicchiona salami, ceci, and Backyard Farms cocktail tomatoes. It came served along with slices of their house made grilled potato bread.
The story behind the potato bread is fascinating. It is made with a 100 year old starter that's been in the family for ages. When Nebo finally moved locations, they had a period of time when the restaurant was not open (and thus they weren't baking bread). The family and members of the staff (everyone got involved!) had to keep the starter dough alive by continuously feeding it every eight hours.
They ended up keeping it alive for five months before they were able to start baking bread again in the new kitchen. Talk about dedication!
All pastas at Nebo are handmade and range in price between $16 and $27. We had the Spaghettini with Backyard Farms cocktail tomatoes, capers, olives, and extra virgin olive oil. This was a delicious dish. The handmade pasta had a beautiful chewy texture and I loved the olives in this dish, which were Gaeta olives. They had a beautiful , deep olive flavor and just enough saltiness to add flavor but not to overpower the dish. They were not that sour, which I liked.
When I asked them about it, they said you could probably get it at Polcari's coffee in the North End.
Our next course was the Pizza Bianco ($18), a simple pizza made with Backyard Farms beefsteak tomatoes, prosciutto Cotto, ricotta, mozzarella, arugula, and Parmagiano. The pizza was solid and I tasted a tiny slice, since I was really, really full at this point.
All in all, the food at Nebo was quite good and I think they did a nice job of creating dishes using Backyard Farms tomatoes. I haven't gone back as a regular diner, so I can't really comment on what the normal menu (sans special tomato focused menu) is like. I can say that these folks know how to cook solid Italian and if the food tastes anything like what I had at this meal, you can easily have a very enjoyable evening dining on some classic Italian dishes here.
Disclaimer - I did not pay for this meal. All opinions are my own.