Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rich with hisotry and flavor -- Tommy Cvitanovich

As a young boy, an eager Tommy Cvitanovich started his well-known restaurant career bussing tables in his aunt’s restaurant in New Orleans. Several years later in 1969, his parents—Drago and Klara—opened their own place in Metairie, aptly named Drago’s.  
Drago's Seafood Restaurant owner Tommy Cvitanovich
receives the Times Picayune Loving Cup Award for his
philanthropy. He also received the National Restaurant
Association's Restaurant Neighbor Award in 2006 for
his community service following Hurricane Katrina.
The young Cvitanovich started out as a “restaurant brat” as most in the restaurant industry—washing dishes, cooking and bartending. Few other than he can say they started out shucking delicious, plump Louisiana oysters.

Now 42 years later, “Tommy C” as he’s referred to by some of his peers, will serve as the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) chair, the top volunteer leadership position. Also, this year, Tommy will begin his term as a board member of the National Restaurant Association (NRA) representing Louisiana, alongside LRA Past Chair Dickie Brennan.

Settling in Southeast Louisiana
Although many Croatians settled in Southeast Louisiana since the early 19th century, the Cvitanovich family came to the area in a round about way. Drago and Klara met in New Orleans after separately fleeing war-torn Yugoslavia, now Croatia.

Klara’s father’s business was burned by the Germans during World War II, but that was only the beginning of her strife. The Communist secret police jailed her father, leaving her mother to raise her three daughters with no income. An aunt who lived in New York assisted the family by sending money and care packages.