Samuel Joseph Roggio, 80, the chef who helped make the old Miller Bros. restaurant "the place to eat" in downtown Baltimore, died Wednesday of a heart attack at St. Joseph Hospital in Towson.
Born and reared in Baltimore, Mr. Roggio cooked everything from chicken pot pie to black bear at the renowned seafood restaurant on Fayette Street. But his lobster and crab imperials were the dishes that made Miller Bros. a favorite spot for seafood aficionadoes, including some celebrities from Washington.
"[FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover always ate a rockfish steak [on visits to the restaurant]," Mr. Roggio told The Evening Sun in 1987. "There was a special room for all the politicians who came there to eat. They got special treatment all right; they had everything they wanted."
Mr. Roggio began his career at the restaurant in 1933 as a dishwasher. He went on to handle other kitchen duties and eventually trained under the reigning chef at the time, Paul Pantzer. When Pantzer died in 1950, Mr. Roggio was named head chef.
He stayed at Miller Bros. until the building was razed in the early 1960s to make way for the development of Charles Center. The restaurant's original owners had bequeathed the Miller Bros. name to Mr. Roggio, who in turn sold the name to the Statler -- later the Baltimore -- Hilton hotel. He was back as chef when the new Miller Bros. opened in the Hilton in 1967.
The Hilton became the Omni International hotel in the mid-1980s, and shortly after that, the Miller Bros. name was dropped for good.
Mr. Roggio left the restaurant in 1980 and became a cook at the Edenwald nursing home in Towson. He was on his way to work there last Sunday morning when he took ill. He checked into St. Joseph that afternoon and died there three days later. He reportedly had previous heart problems.
A small man who was a big eater, Mr. Roggio enjoyed eating fish dishes at home as much as he enjoyed preparing them on the job.
In 1987, Mr. Roggio's career was crowned when he was named one of "The Great Chefs of Baltimore" by the local chapter of the International Food Service Executives Association.
Survivors include his wife, the former Gertrude Kalinowska; a son, Lawrence P. Roggio of Towson, and another grandson, Brian R. Roggio of Gunnison, Colo.
A funeral liturgy will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Ruck-Towson funeral establishment, 1050 York Road. After the service, burial will take place at the Garden of Faith Cemetery, 4419 Kenwood Ave., Overlea.