Angelina Tadduni

[ Age 92 ] Enthusiastic cook was co-founder of the Northeast Baltimore restaurant that bears her name.

Mrs. Tadduni had the pots of sauce bubbling early in the morning, and made everything from scratch.

April 16, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun reporter

Angelina Tadduni, a founder of the popular Northeast Baltimore restaurant that bears her name and where she spent nearly 50 years preparing her signature piquant spaghetti sauce and pans of homemade ravioli and manicotti, died of pneumonia Saturday at a niece's home in Airville, Pa. She was 92.

Angelina Russo, the daughter of immigrant Italian parents, was born in Baltimore and raised in Little Italy. She was a graduate of St. Leo's parochial school and the Institute of Notre Dame.

As a girl, Mrs. Tadduni learned cooking the Italian way from her mother, who was a native of Messina, Sicily.

In 1940, she married Joseph Tadduni, and the couple opened the Standard Lunchroom in the Standard Oil Building on St. Paul Place, which was frequented by Pennsylvania Railroad and Railway Express workers from nearby Calvert Station, family members said.

In the late 1940s, the couple decided they wanted to be closer to their Hamilton home and sold the restaurant.

They became partners with Mrs. Tadduni's sister, Sarah Conigliaro, and her husband, Sam Conigliaro, in S&S Grocery Store at 7135 Harford Road.

When a Food Fair grocery store that opened nearby in the early 1950s began draining away business from the rowhouse grocery, the two couples decided to close it, pool their money, and open a restaurant.

"They demolished the grocery store and built a new building from scratch. They took a gamble and opened the restaurant in 1952," said her daughter, Mary Francis Nichols of Parkville.

"They named it after my mother because her name sounded more Italian than my Aunt Sarah's first name," she said, laughing.

"They did everything from scratch. My grandfather grew the tomatoes she used in her sauce in his Rosalie Avenue garden. She never bought a can of anything," Mrs. Nichols said.

"She made all of the Italian dishes - except lasagna, which was Sarah's contribution - like ravioli which she stuffed with ricotta cheese and fresh parsley. She made gnocchi, soups, and veal dishes like veal marsala," she said.

Mrs. Tadduni's father, who opened the restaurant very early in the morning, would be followed by his daughter, who began cooking up fragrant kettles of bubbling spaghetti sauce by 6 a.m. and never any later than 7 a.m.

"Days were long because she worked seven days a week. Finally, she told my father she needed a day off and they decided to close the restaurant on Mondays," she said.

After her husband's death in 1968, the restaurant was sold the next year to Bob and Carole S. Reilly, who asked Mrs. Tadduni to continue operating the restaurant's kitchen.

"I always called her `Miss Angie.' She was everyone's mom or grandmother," said Mrs. Reilly yesterday. She described Mrs. Tadduni as "an easygoing and uncomplicated lady."

"When you ate at Angelina's, she made you feel as if you were eating in someone's home, and it was never an effort for her to put in an extra touch to please a customer," Mrs. Reilly said.

She added: "What she did was operate a little corner Italian restaurant with good food that did it right."

At the end of the evening, when the restaurant closed, Mrs. Tadduni would cook for the staff, even though she had spent hours and hours standing on her feet in the warm kitchen cooking.

"She'd say, `Come on. Whaddya want? Now ya gotta eat something,'" Mrs. Reilly recalled, "and then she'd prepare it for them."

After the Reillys opened up an Irish bar downstairs from the dining room, John R. Dorsey, then The Sun's restaurant critic, wondered in a 1973 review whether the place would be renamed "O'Angelina's."

When the Reillys sold the restaurant to Bob and Susan Bufano in 1987, Mrs. Tadduni remained at her post in the kitchen until she was 84, and finally retired in 1999.

In her retirement, Mrs. Tadduni continued to enjoy cooking for her family.

When she was 90, Mrs. Tadduni compiled in a strong hand a book of her recipes for her daughter as a Christmas present.

"It has all of her recipes and something I'll always cherish," her daughter said.

Mrs. Tadduni lived independently in her home, a few doors from the restaurant, until three years ago, when she moved to Airville.

She was a communicant for 62 years of St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church, 5310 Harford Road, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11:30 a.m. today.

Also surviving are a sister, Laura Schwind of Towson; and several nieces and nephews.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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