Vincent Rallo

Vincent Rallo, owner of Rallo's Restaurant in Locust Point. (Kim Hairston / September 7, 2000)

Vincent Mario "Vince" Rallo, a former banker who in retirement took over Rallo's Restaurant, a Locust Point landmark since 1941, died Thursday morning of lung cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

The longtime Homeland resident was 79.

Rallo's, in the 800 block of E. Fort Ave., was established by Mr. Rallo's father, Louis Rallo, an immigrant from Sicily who settled in Baltimore in 1910.

The restaurant was known for its generous breakfasts that included scrapple, an old-fashioned menu staple, as well as bacon, sausage, corned beef hash and sizzling ham.

There were heaping portions of beef or chicken stew, lima bean and pea soup, fried crab cakes, chili con carne, Spanish omelets, braunschweiger sandwiches, and sour beef and dumplings.

"It's been an institution in South Baltimore forever," said Baltimore City Councilman William H. Cole IV. "I've eaten breakfast there every morning for 17 years. I arrive at 8 a.m., and my scrambled eggs and iced tea are waiting for me."

He recalled Mr. Rallo as being a genial host and a lively conversationalist.

"There are not many places left in Baltimore like Rallo's," he said.

Joe DiBlasi, a former city councilman, is another regular.

"We had many, many political and campaign meetings and fundraisers there over the years. I think I introduced William Donald Schaefer and Barbara Mikulski to Rallo's," he said. "I've been there thousands of times in the last 30 years, and I always looked forward to Fridays, which was flounder day."

Mr. DiBlasi said he visited Rallo's two or three times a week.

"If I didn't have time to eat, I'd just drop in to talk to Vince, and he loved telling me what to do, and I'd tell him, 'Why don't you run for City Council,' " he said, with a laugh.

Mr. DiBlasi added: "He was a generous behind-the-scenes guy. He was a great man who always did a lot for the community. He was loyal and dedicated to the South Baltimore community and will be sorely missed."

The restaurant was a throwback to another era — a diner in a rowhouse — but Mr. Rallo had been trying to sell the corner building for the past few years. He had scaled back the hours, ending dinner service.

It is a place where the waitresses know the orders of the regulars.

Pictures of old Baltimore adorn the walls, along with snapshots of Mr. Rallo posing with city politicians for whom the restaurant was a must stop, whether they were running for office or already elected. Mr. Schaefer celebrated his 75th birthday with breakfast at Rallo's.

It was a favorite for city police officers, longshoremen, City Hall workers, reporters, judges and railroad workers from the nearby CSX Riverside yards.

Teal-colored barstools were filled with workers from Domino Sugars getting off their overnight shifts, while others dined in blond-colored booths or at tables that were similarly decorated.

"It was a motley crew. You could never stereotype who was going to be there," Mr. Cole said with a laugh.