Nebo: Pallotta Sisters on Food Network

Carla and Christine Pallotta of Nebo

Airing on March 2 at 8:30 on the Food Network. Be sure to watch!!

Before they opened Nebo (90 North Washington Street, Boston, 617.723.6326) just over five years ago, the Pallotta sisters had never cooked a meal for themselves. They didn’t need to: their mother cooked for their family and their entire North End neighborhood on a nightly basis. Ten people, 20 people at the dinner table – it didn’t matter to Mama Pallotta. Christine had to call her mother to ask the trick about how to boil water. “Seriously, it’s just water in a pot?” But now, they are likely to best Bobby Flay in a lasagna throwdown that’s airing on the Food Network on March 2. The girls use mandoline-sliced zucchinis instead of noodles. Word is, Flay was impressed.
How did you go from not knowing how to boil water to opening a restaurant?
Carla: We’re not chefs. We’re just cooks! But we grew up with wonderful food at home. When our mother went to Florida for three months every year, we ate out every night. We got to know all the chefs! We’re also not afraid to ask for advice. We’ll call up real chefs like Anthony Caturano at Prezza with a question, or ask Tony Ambrose how to fry a fish in oil.
Christine: Until we opened the restaurant, I never cooked a meal in my life. Why should I learn to cook? I love being waited on!
But now you have a successful restaurant with a huge menu. Where are the recipes from?
Christine: When we decided to open the restaurant, we went crazy for three months. We started to learn to cook. I’d go to sleep with a stack of cookbooks – I still do.
Carla: We’d helped our mother make pasta and stuff, but we never cooked with her. She didn’t want anyone bothering her in the kitchen. She’d been taught to cook by her mother, and we’d grown up eating all the dishes. Three weeks before we opened, we had our mother come in and do all her recipes. She’d pour the flour into her hand, and we’d pour it into a measuring cup.
How did the Food Network find you?
Carla: They saw us on! They saw our videos on the site, and they called us. They wanted us to do something last year, but our father was sick and we said we couldn’t. The person on the other end of the phone said, “Do you understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?” We figured that being with our father at the end of his life was also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I looked at Christine, and I said, “I guess we blew that.”
So, then they called again?
Carla: Last June. They called and said, “We’ll call you between October and November.” We turned to each other and said, “Forget about it.” But then they did call and ask for a conference call and said we would need six changes of clothes, three locations in the North End, and three different kitchens. We thought we were doing a show about Italian neighborhoods. We didn’t know that Bobby Flay was part of it at all until we turned around in the kitchen to get a spoon and bumped into Bobby Flay.
Christine: When I saw him, I said, “What took you so long?” That made him laugh.
Do you love lasagna?
Christine: I hate lasagna. That’s the irony.
Carla: I tell her to shut up. “Zucchini will make you famous,” I say.
by Louisa Kasdon
From Stuff Magazine: February-March 2011 Issue