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Pax Romana: Roman Style Dining in White Plains

pax1The Roman style of casual dining at Pax Romana is a most pleasant way to enjoy a meal. It has been said that," A meal without pasta is like a day without sunshine." Add sunshine to your meal by dining at Pax Romana where passion, pride and authenticity infuse each dish. Pax Romana is the new restaurant to occupy the space that recently housed Taleggio. Completely redecorated, it now has a rustic casual look with dark leather chairs, dark wood floors, beautiful arched windows and lots of plants and antique accessories which give it a vintage look. Fresh flowers grace each table. At the entrance, note the gelato showcase and keep it in mind for the finale to your meal. In the dining room, there is a pasta table seating eight, where you can watch the chef prepare your pasta. The rear wall is an authentic looking fresco -- a graffiti wall with Italian sayings on it. Pax Romana is owned by Paul Russo and Brothers Alfredo and Christian Runco. Heading the kitchen staff is Cristian Petitta, most recently of La Bocca in White Plains. In the true Roman tradition, simplicity and fresh ingredients are qualities of his dishes. Russo describes Pax Romana as," rustic, modern, authentic with homestyle Italian cooking. Very important ingredients in our dishes are love and good energy... In the near future, we hope to conduct classes in pasta making and serve Sunday brunch, as well." Russo was only four years old, when he visited Disneyworld and upon looking at its hotel he knew that this was the career route he wanted to follow. This led to culinary school, work at The Castle in Tarrytown, and several years at a well-known golf club in Rockland. "At Pax Romana, it is all about team work. We are like a family and work together for success. My family taught me to put in time and energy into my work and show respect."

The menu here uses Italian names for the dishes with English translations which lends itself to authenticity. We started our tasting with a modern presentation of the classic suppli ar telefono. Here the tomato risotto balls were log shaped. This breaded delight revealed a mozzarella filling. When bitten into, the melted mozzarella resembled telephone wires, thus its name. Served in a mini deep frying basket and wrapped in butcher paper, it was accompanied by a skewer of meat filled breaded and fried olives, a delicious beginning. A puree of cannellini beans served as the base for tender grilled octopus. The cooking process of braising, grilling and massaging the octopus, resulted in a fine texture. Other interesting starters include chicken wings with Italian herbs, braised artichokes with mint, garlic and white wine and pecorino flan.

Free form pizzas arrived in several varieties. The dough for the crust is prepared from imported Roman flour which is fermented for 72 hours before preparation. Pax Romana is one of the few restaurants to import this flour. Our pie topped with Roman chicory, homemade sausage and mozzarella was excellent. The sausage is lovingly prepared by Giovanna Runco, mother of Alfredo aand Christian. Future visits may include the classic margherita or porchetta pie with roasted pork, greens and sun dried tomatoes.

One of the highlights of the menu is the large selection paxpastaof freshly made pasta. Many of the recipes are based on old family favorites of the owners and the chef. The Gnocchi Sorrentina are hand formed and baked in a light tomato sauce with mozzarella and fresh basil. The cheese melted into these delicate morsels and the tomato sauce was just rich enough to compliment these cloudlike dumplings. The maccheroni con ragu de sarsiccia was a winner. The tubes of pasta, like all the other pastas at Pax Romana are prepared from scratch in their kitchen. A hearty crumbled sausage ragu bathed the pasta and the dish was topped with a meaty pork rib on the bone. The dish was reflective of the home style dishes of Rome. Very unique was a dish of pappardelle with a wild boar ragu. The pappardelle was infused with cocoa. I always thought of chocolate as part of an entrée in Mexican mole sauce and was surprised to see it as a pasta ingredient. The thick ribbons of al dente pappardelle were sturdy enough to pair with the rich sauce. The cocoa in the pasta dough added a very subtle flavor to this dish. Yet to be tried is the spaghetti carbonara. The strands of pasta mingle with egg yolk, pecorino cheese, black pepper and guanciale (pork cheek), rather than pancetta. Whole wheat penne with pesto, chittara with smoked salmon and zucchini and oxtail ravioli are also on the list for our next visit.

Entrees include veal, seafood, steak and chicken in classic preparations. We enjoyed branzino trasparenza. It arrived like a gift wrapped present. Bass, clams, mussels and shrimp and a julienne of carrots, zucchini, onion and fresh mint were encased in heat resistant plastic and baked. Our waiter used a pair of scissors to cut the package open at the table as the aroma of the delicious broth lofted around the table. It was lovely in taste and presentation.

paxgelatoHomemade desserts include apricot tart, tiramisu, and dark, milk and white chocolate mousse, but it was the display of about two dozen varieties of homemade gelato that tempted me. Would it be pistachio, mixed berry lemon or Nutella? We chose hazelnut, mint chocolate chip and coffee, topped with a homemade pizzelle prepared by Paul Russo's grandmother, Graziella Fante. Russo indicated," Grandma gets joy in preparing them. She lives to feed you."

If Rome is not your vacation destination, take a ride to Pax Romana, where the authentic dishes of Rome are offered right here in White Plains.
Pax Romana
189 East Post Road
White Plains
(914) 437 5791

Italian Basil Pesto Genovese

Ingredients:
1 or 2 cloves of peeled garlic
3 ½ ounces fresh basil leaves
1 ½ ounces pine nuts
3 ½ ounces grated parmigiana reggiano cheese
7 ounces pecorino Romano cheese
3 ½ ounces extra virgin olive oil
Touch of heavy cream* optional

Instructions:

Quick blender method
Place all ingredients except cream into blender container. Blend on high speed for one minute. Remove lid and using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides. Check the consistency of the mixture. It should be thick and creamy. If you think it should be a bit thinner blend for a few more seconds, but don't overdo it. Some cooks add a bit of heavy cream but that is not essential.

JudieJudie Dweck has been writing about restaurants and food for many publications. She teaches creative cooking to children at Scarsdale elementary schools. Through the years, her articles have appeared in Jack and Jill Magazine, Spotlight, The Pleasure of Cooking and The Scarsdale Inquirer. She balances her restaurant tastings with daily ballet classes.

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