A recent bout with pneumonia kept Colts legend Gino Marchetti from the Towson opening, but more than 100 people still lined up Wednesday outside Gino's Burgers & Chicken, waiting to step into the restaurant and back in time.

"There's the News American over there," joked Howard Schultze, 69, of Hampstead, who read the long-shuttered newspaper and ate at the restaurant once a week as a teenager.

TV news cameras rolled and police officers stood ready to control the crowd, which started gathering more than four hours before the store threw open its doors shortly after 11.

Some in the crowd had sentimental reasons for coming. Bob Currier had more reasons than most; 10,000 of them, actually. Currier, 65, worked at Gino's in Dundalk in high school and, following his dad's advice, plowed 150 dollars of his earnings into Gino's stock. He returned from a stint in the Navy five or six years later to find that the stock was worth more than $10,000, which he used to buy a $20,000 Dundalk Cape Cod, where he lives today.

"I'm here to support Gino's and eat a Gino's Giant, which I probably haven't had in 40 years," he said.

Some in the crowd were just kids when Gino's closed its last Baltimore-area store in 1991, but they were nevertheless swept up in Gino's nostalgia at the new location, 8600 Lasalle Road in Towson.

"It's sort of this phantom thing, this nebulous thing that used to exist," said Bruce Voge III, 33, of Gwynn Oak. "And now it's here, and it's brick-and-mortar, and we can try it and taste it."

Marchetti was in the hospital two weeks ago with pneumonia and wasn't feeling well enough to attend, said Peg Varani, a company spokeswoman. But Marchetti addressed the crowd through Varani's cellphone, which she held up to a microphone before the restaurant opened.

"I hope everybody there has a good time, and maybe I'll see everybody at the next one," said Marchetti. "I'm very sorry I'm missing the grand opening, and intended to be there and wanted to be there."

Plans to open 10 franchise locations in the Baltimore area were announced in February. A King of Prussia, Pa., location opened in October.

laura.vozzella@baltsun.com