Susan M. Bufano, 50, co-owner of restaurant

November 20, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Susan M. Bufano, a former Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maryland systems analyst who was co-owner with her husband of the popular Parkville restaurant Angelina's, died of a cerebral aneurysm Monday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Hereford resident was 50.

She was born Susan Bajackson in Cleveland and moved with her family to Milford Mill in 1953. She was a 1970 graduate of Milford Mill High School, and two years later earned an associate's degree in computer science from then-Catonsville Community College.

Mrs. Bufano was hired as a systems analyst for Blue Cross in 1975, working at its headquarters - first in Towson, then Owings Mills - until 1993.

In 1975, she married Robert Bufano, a businessman who had worked during his college years as a waiter and cook.

"We were looking for a small business to buy when we heard that Carole Reilly, the widow of Bob Reilly, who had owned Angelina's, was trying to sell the place," said Mr. Bufano.

The couple purchased the business in 1987 - the third owners of the well-known Harford Road restaurant that had originally been a rowhouse grocery store. It was converted into a restaurant in 1952 by Samuel and Sarah Conigliaro.

"We had often frequented the restaurant, and it seemed to be the right size business that we were looking for. In order to buy it, we took out a second mortgage on our home. Susan continued working a little longer at Blue Cross because we needed to have a steady income," he said.

When Mrs. Bufano went to work in the restaurant full time, she handled duties that included serving as hostess, bartender and overseeing the office.

"She did everything but cook," her husband said.

"She was definitely customer-oriented. When we weren't able to take any more reservations and groups of people came to the door, Sue would still take them in. She never could turn anyone away. She was just that way," said Carole Reilly, the restaurant's manager. "She always tried hard to please people and never let the phone ring twice."

"She was just the sweetest lady who was very concerned that not only the restaurant did well, but the customers were happy," said a regular patron, Pearl Walsh of Parkville. "She'd run around clearing tables and filling water glasses. I'm sure she didn't have to do that, but she did."

The restaurant is known for its jumbo crab cakes, which have garnered critical praise from critics and diners. They are made with domestic jumbo lump crabmeat, and a minimum amount of spices and filler, and slowly pan-fried to a light golden color.

Visitors from out of town who had heard about the softball-sized crab cakes inquired if it was possible to order them by telephone or the Internet.

Realizing the potential, Mrs. Bufano developed an overnight service that made the Tidewater delicacy available to far-off, crab-starved customers.

"Last year, we shipped more than 20,000 crab cakes to customers," Mr. Bufano said.

Mrs. Bufano was a member of the United States Blue Crab Coalition, and for her efforts promoting the blue crab received the Maryland Seafood Marketer of the Year Award in 1999.

Mrs. Bufano, an animal lover, took in and cared for stray cats and dogs. She also enjoyed traveling.

Services will be held at 9 a.m. today at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by her son, Matthew D. Bufano of Hereford, and a brother, Richard A. Bajackson of Sparks.

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