Carmela M. Bonadio, who immigrated to Baltimore as a young girl from her native Sicily and earned a reputation as an extraordinary cook, died from cancer complications Wednesday at the Oak Crest Village retirement community in Parkville. The mother of three sons was 90.
Born Carmela Doccolo in Calascibetta, Sicily, she moved with her mother to East Baltimore in 1920 to be reunited with her father, who had toiled five years as a carpenter to afford their passage.
The family settled on Chapel Street, joined St. Paul's Roman Catholic parish and became part of the social swirl of Little Italy.
In 1930, her brother introduced the 18-year-old Carmela to a customer at his barbershop, Frank Bonadio. The couple married, moved to Durham Street, and began a partnership that would endure until his death in 1993.
As Mr. Bonadio rose through the ranks of Sheet Metal Workers Local 122, and eventually to the national offices of the AFL-CIO, the family moved through a succession of homes before settling on Beverly Road in Hamilton.
Mrs. Bonadio was the central figure in each of them, the anchor of the family.
"Growing up, we always had extra people at the house for dinner," recalled her son Frank C. Bonadio of Lutherville. "And later on, we'd all gather at the house on Sundays after church, on holidays, any kind of occasion, we'd all go home.
"The food, oh! She could have been a chef in a restaurant. From the pastas down to vegetables, she knew Italian inside and out. And she moved on to German, Jewish, anything that tasted good."
Her recipe for ravioli, perfected over many years, is a closely held family secret.
Mrs. Bonadio, who moved to Oak Crest after her husband's death, was active as a volunteer for about 40 years at St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, 3615 Harford Road. A Mass of Christian burial will be offered there at 10 a.m. tomorrow - conducted by another of her sons, the Rev. Joseph J. Bonadio of Catonsville.
She is also survived by another son, Felice A. Bonadio of Homeland; a sister, Rose Jaskulski of Fullerton; nine grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.