(Top 2 photos, courtesy of Nebo)
The calamari was pretty close to perfection. Completely greaseless, the perfectly fried morsels were crispy and tender. Unlike the frozen, heavy versions that are so often served, with a sprinkle of salt and lemon juice, these addictive pieces were light and clearly from the freshest calamari possible. Meanwhile, my husband's eyes had glazed over as he spooned more of the molten eggplant timballo into his mouth. A baked to order mix of tangy tomato sauce, eggplant and caramelized mozzarella, this dish took the idea of eggplant parm to another level. Most remarkably, both of these antipasti were from the gluten free menu that is offered at Nebo in Boston. For any parent who has a child with food allergies, and for any person who has food allergies, the opportunity to hold an entire menu's worth of delicious possibilities is incredibly empowering. Perched on the edge of the North End, within walking distance of the Boston Garden and the beautiful Zakim Bridge, Nebo was opened in 2005 by sisters, Christine and Carla Pallotta. Having grown up in the North End, they originally wanted to create the kind of restaurant they were searching for at the end of a long day's work: a relaxed atmosphere and a variety of small plates (Italian tapas of sorts) that they could share with a group of people. But the sisters made this restaurant infinitely more personal when they chose to use their mother's recipes.Yet out of a desire to offer friends who ate gluten-free the same delicious items, they set out to recreate their best dishes without sacrificing the quality. And, finally, this past February, they added a full menu for interested guests. (We were invited by Nebo, in large part, to try out this new menu). With additional items that are egg-free and a willingness to create cheese-free pizzas, Nebo is not only a great restaurant, but one that is a stand out for its variety of great foods. Someone with food allergies doesn't have to give up the pleasure of eating well when they dine here.
Nebo offers so much for so many. First, the atmosphere is casual enough to grab a meal before a game at the Boston Garden, or where you can have a nice meal for two. And with antipasti, pasta, pizza and bruschette, it is easy for anyone to eat well for under $20.00.
In addition to the calamari and timballo, other memorable items included a burrata cheese flown in from Italy. (It is also pictured at the top of this post.) A sensuous combination of mozzarella with a creamy, buttery inside, it was topped with a fig balsamic glaze and alongside tender prosciutto di parma. It was served with their signature grilled bread, made in-house with a potato base and touched with garlic.
The pastas are rolled by hand, giving the tagliatelle a toothsome texture that held up to the rich marscapone and mushroom sauce. The pizzas are a thin crust style. We loved the tangy tomato sauce and brightness of the basil, though one less minute of cooking time would have helped the crust to be a bit more chewy than crisp.FoodieDaddy and I were of two minds about the Bresaola al Carpaccio. Consisted of slices of dried cured beef, it had a woodsy, deep taste that was complimented by arugula. I can't say that the taste grew on me, but it was intriguing to try and was a lighter alternative to other meats. FoodieDaddy wasn't a fan.
For desserts we tried a smooth cappuccino gelato (also made in-house) and a creamy ricotta pie, based, again, on a family recipe.At the heart of this restaurant is family-a family that loved food, a mother that was willing to share her recipes, and two women that with the support of a greater community set out to create a wonderful space for all people. And with such an inclusive array of delicious and affordable food, we will be back...with our sons.
Nebo Pizzeria and Enoteca 90 North Washington St, Boston 617.723.nebo (6326)