Eleanora E. Allori

Longtime owner with husband of Milton Inn in Sparks made restaurant prized for Old World charm, continental cuisine

December 18, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Eleanora E. Allori, former longtime owner of the historic Milton Inn in Sparks, died Sunday of respiratory failure at the Lorien Mays Chapel nursing home. She was 77.

Eleanora Elizabeth Keller was born in Baltimore and raised near Patterson Park and in Cumberland.

After graduating from Patterson High School, she worked for the Social Security Administration and the G. Fava Fruit Co. before taking a job as a hat check girl at the old Maria's 300 on Albermarle Street in Little Italy.

While working at Maria's, she met her future husband, Attilio B. Allori, who had been a partner in the popular restaurant.

They married in 1953 and five years later purchased the Milton Inn, which had been built in 1740.

The former stagecoach stop and inn became the Milton Academy - named for John Milton, the English poet and author of Paradise Lost - in 1840. One of its graduates was actor-turned-assassin John Wilkes Booth.

The stone structure on York Road reverted to a private residence in 1880 and since 1947 has been an inn.

"They became well-known restaurateurs, and it was their intention to serve their guests with Old World charm, warmth and delicious continental cuisine," said a daughter, Felicia Allori Walsh of Hunt Valley.

While her husband worked in the kitchen preparing meals, Mrs. Allori greeted guests.

"We also lived upstairs at the inn when we were children," said Mrs. Walsh. "She worked the front of the house greeting guests. She enjoyed the restaurant business and made many good friends."

With its beamed ceiling, fireplaces and dark-paneled walls that were decorated with antique prints and a cuisine to match, the Milton Inn drew praise from restaurant critics for years.

Tables were set in cream and gold china with illumination provided by tall brass candlesticks.

The restaurant's kitchen prepared French, Italian and American cuisine.

"I doubt if one could find a lovelier interior setting for dinner anywhere in Maryland," wrote the late John Dorsey, T he Sun's restaurant critic in 1975.

Mr. Dorsey also praised the Alloris' tone.

"It is a tradition among good restaurants in France that once you have a table, NOBODY is going to hurry you, even if it's late or there are people waiting, but one doesn't often find the tradition observed in this country," he wrote.

Mrs. Allori was the creator of the Salade Eleanora, which remained a menu staple for years and featured watercress, raw mushrooms, artichokes and Belgian endive that was dressed with oil, vinegar, and mustard. It was accompanied by hot, crusty French bread.

The Alloris also popularized oysters Rockefeller, soupe Senegalaise, sweetbreads Mona Lisa, red snapper Livornese and tournedos Rossini.

After her husband's death in 1979, Mrs. Allori continued operating the restaurant until 1987, when she sold the business to Clark F. MacKenzie, a commercial real estate developer and several business associates, who have owned it for the past 21 years.

"I knew Leo way back in the 1960s when I'd go there for lunch with my dad. The Alloris put the Milton Inn on the map," Mr. MacKenzie said yesterday. "And when I started my own company, I patronized the inn all the time and got to know them both."

He described Mrs. Allori as a very "elegant and attractive lady."

Mr. MacKenzie said he was attracted to the Milton Inn because it was not only a "landmark with a great history" but also a place that was cozy and intimate.

"They made you feel when you were dining there that you were in their home and not a restaurant. It didn't have that restaurant feel," he said.

Another longtime customer was John D. Worthington IV, publisher of The Aegis, the Harford County weekly newspaper.

"You never got a bad meal there," he said. "It was always good even though it could be a little expensive."

After retiring, Mrs. Allori, a longtime Timonium resident, became a world traveler and enjoyed volunteering at Baltimore County elementary schools.

Services were yesterday.

Also surviving are another daughter, Stephanie Allori-Hillis of Monkton; a brother, Raymond Keller of Baltimore; a sister, Lucy May Shows of Gardenville; and two grandchildren.

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