Christine & Carla Pallotta
Sisters Christine and Carla Pallotta are the executive chefs and co-owners of Boston’s Nebo Cucina and Enoteca, a restaurant that honors their mother and grandmother’s authentic recipes from the Puglia region of Italy.
• Christine has a bachelor’s degree in marketing; Carla is a licensed cosmetologist
• The sisters are self-taught, mentored by two generations of Italian women
• Winners of Boston Concierge’s Small Bites award; Boston Magazine’s 2011 Best Neighborhood Restaurant; and the Improper Bostonian’s 2013 Best Neighborhood Restaurant
• Winners of the Food Network’s “Throwdown With Bobby Flay”
• Both walk four to eight miles daily. Christine prefers stretching, breathing exercises, swimming, and hiking; Carla prefers biking, Rollerblading, hiking, golfing, and paddle boarding.
From Their Family Table to Yours
On days that Carla and Christine Pallotta’s mother made ravioli, the snap of the pasta dough against her well-worn wooden board would wake them.
“We’d hear the roller at 5 a.m. and we knew Mom was in the kitchen,” says Carla.
The sisters would jump from bed, jostling one another in a race to grab a fork and climb up to the table, eager to help crimp the ravioli shut. “My mom was protective of her stuff, like the 100-year-old rolling pin she used for pasta. But there were little things we could help with,” says Christine. “We loved watching her.”
Their mother loved feeding her family—the more the merrier. Food was always on the table for them and their 20 cousins who lived within a quarter mile of their home in Boston’s Little Italy neighborhood.
Cooking took place in the morning—breads and pastas made from scratch, the stove crowded with fried zucchini flowers and arrancini. Who might actually join them for dinner each night, however, was an impromptu decision.
“If she was making pork chops and more company walked in, she’d throw in some pizza squares, some pasta and cheese. We were used to having a huge crowd,” says Carla.
From as early as she can remember, Carla knew she wanted to go into business for herself. With her father’s encouragement, she opened a hair salon at 22 years old, and a few years later, Christine joined her. The business was an undeniable success, growing to a point they even expanded. At the heart of it all, the family dinners remained constant.
When their parents decided to start wintering in Florida, the sisters were bereft. They ate at local restaurants most nights, but the food lacked the simplicity of their mother’s home-cooked meals.
“We were sitting at the bar one night, kind of picking at our food, and I just turned to my sister and said, ‘Let’s open a restaurant where you can eat like you’re in Ma’s kitchen,’” Christine says.
Neither sister had worked in a restaurant—not as a waitress or a host, and certainly not as a chef. Still, launching the business wasn’t the hardest part—trying to figure out their mother’s recipes was.
For the three weeks leading up to the restaurant opening, they camped out in their childhood kitchen, watching their mother cook.
“Ma does everything by touch and feel, not measurements. So we had to sit next to her and reverse engineer the recipes,” Christine says. “She’d throw the flour on the board, and we’d scrape it off and put it in the measuring cup and write down how much flour to use. The process was insane.”
Like their mother’s kitchen, the sisters’ restaurant, Nebo, quickly drew a crowd. The Pallottas have since expanded to a larger location, and their mom, 82, visits regularly to eat dinner.
“I’ve had chefs say to me, ‘Oh, don’t you get sick of eating at your own restaurant?’ but we don’t,” says Carla. “You might get sick of eating food that feels fancy, but the food here doesn’t try to be something it’s not. We’re eating here like we eat every night in our family house.”
Christine and Carla Pallottaare also part of Simple Feast, an app the hosts an amazing community of Chefs and their delicious recipes. To view more recipes by the Pallottasisters and other incredible Chefs go to Simple Feast.