Richard J. Black Sr., 50, served sandwiches, smiles at popular Little Italy shop

March 23, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Richard J. Black Sr., a former co-owner and cook at Iggy's Sandwich Kings in Little Italy, died Monday of a brain tumor at his Gardenville residence. He was 50.

For 17 years, Mr. Black worked in the landmark restaurant, which was founded by his father-in-law, Louis Patti Jr., at Eastern Avenue and High Street in 1935.

A gregarious and fun-loving man, Mr. Black was as much an institution in Little Italy as his restaurant's double Italian hot sausage sandwich served on a Maranto's roll, fragrant pasta fagioli, robust soups and stews and submarine sandwiches.

"He cooked, socialized and took orders," said his daughter, Richelle M. Black of Hamilton.

A 6-footer with brownish-red hair and a big smile, Mr. Black dished up friendship, advice and jocularity daily to the customers who arrived for breakfast or lunch or a quick cup of coffee and the latest neighborhood gossip.

"He was a very cordial guy who had a good time in life," said Toodie Geppi, who ate his first hot dog in the restaurant in the early 1950s and has been a steady customer since.

"We used to say, `Hey, he doesn't look that swift, so how did he learn to cook?' " Geppi said with a laugh.

"He was known for his `beanamacaroni,' which used to throw off new customers. They didn't know what it was. So, he finally changed the name to beans and macaroni. He also made the best Western omelet -- I don't know what he did to it -- and wonderful cream of potato soup," he said.

"You've got to learn everything in a place like that, and he was a quick learner," said Mr. Patti, who lives in Rosedale and is retired from the business, which is now operated by his daughters. "He had a very good personality and was liked by all," he said.

"He was a people person who loved socializing," said Mr. Black's wife of 27 years, Suzanne Patti Black, who got to know him when the two were students at the St. Anthony of Padua parochial school.

Mr. Black, who often arrived at the restaurant at 5 a.m. and worked until 8 p.m., prepared his soups from scratch and operated a sausage machine that stamped out carefully shaped patties.

He was also a walking advertisement for the restaurant's cuisine.

"There wasn't anything there that he didn't like," said Mrs. Black.

Mr. Black, a Gardenville native, attended Northern High School and later earned his GED while serving in the Army from 1971 until 1973. He was discharged with the rank of private.

He joined the Baltimore City Fire Department in 1971 and was assigned as a pump operator at Engine Co. 51 in Highlandtown. He left in 1981 to work at the restaurant. He retired in 1998 because of declining health.

An avid golfer, he enjoyed playing at Clifton Park and Ocean City and during annual trips to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

He also enjoyed softball, basketball and football and was a duckpin bowler.

Mr. Black was a member of Knights of Columbus Baltimore Council 205 and IOTA Athletic Club.

He was a communicant of St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, 3615 Harford Road, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Black is survived by a son, Richard J. Black Jr. of Hamilton; and a sister, Rosemary Smith of Woodlawn.

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