February 2017 was not a happy time for Paul Russo and brothers Christian and Alfredo Runco. The trio had been running Pax Romana since February of 2016, when what they refer to as “landlord issues” forced the closing of the 189 East Post Road restaurant.
“We had built a solid foundation at original Pax, and it had suddenly ended,” says Tarrytown resident Russo.
The closing came as a surprise to many patrons, who saw only full tables and positive press on the Roman-style eatery, specializing in moderate-sized plates, where guests could order an app, entrée, and dessert without feeling stuffed.
The partners knew they had built a strong following and the groundwork for a successful business, so when Vino 100 moved out of 171 East Post Road and up the street, it was the start of the second iteration of Pax, TVB by: Pax Romana, which debuted in July. The letters “TVB” stand for ti voglio bene, or “I wish you well,” in Italian. “It was on the graffiti wall at the former location,” says Russo, “and we wanted to recognize the love and support we’ve received from so many people.”
Native Italian chef Cristian Petitta reprises his role heading up the kitchen; the concept is the same as the first Pax: Roman-style street food, pizza, salads, Perino on tap, only four or five entrées (e.g., branzino with sautéed seasonal veggies, eggplant parm or chicken parm). Sit down at the pasta bar to watch Giovanna Runco (the Runco brothers’ nonna) make tagliolini, spaghetti, penne, cavatelli, and more. Russo’s grandmother Graziella Fante also contributes to the kitchen, making 30 pounds of tiramisù every three days or so. “We keep things close to our roots — we are all first generation,” explains Russo.
The pies are pinsa Romana, made with a soy-wheat-rice-combo flour, and Pax is only one of two restaurants in the US certified by the distributor in Rome as an authentic pinseria. “It creates a beautiful, airy crust that’s easily digestible and light on the inside,” says Alfredo Runco, a Yonkers resident. “When we switched to this flour at the old Pax, we went from 300 pies a month to 1,200 a month.”
Realtors in Port Chester and Eastchester with potential restaurant locations approached the partners, but they knew they wanted to stay in White Plains. “We built a home here, and the city is a growing community, with a number of nearby residential developments in the works,” says Russo. “Plus, we’re in the middle of a food renaissance along East Post Road, with Z Prime steakhouse and Wolf & Warrior Brewing Co. [slated to open soon] a few doors from us.”
Any lessons learned from opening what is essentially the same restaurant twice?
“We know more than we’d like to about leases,” jokes Russo.
171 E Post Rd, White Plains