The prominent New Orleans restaurateur and philanthropist was born in Igrane near Makarska, and moved to the United States of America in 1964. He passed away in his 95th year, in peace and in the company of his family. Drago’s restaurants now operate at three locations and are run by his son Tommy.

Drago Cvitanovich, a prominent New Orleans restaurateur, passed away on the 4th of February in his 95th year, in peace and in the company of his family. Drago and his wife Klara were known in New Orleans for their work as restaurateurs and their humanitarian activity. Drago will be laid to rest on Tuesday the 7th of February.

Drago Cvitanovich was born in Igrane near Makarska, and moved to the United States of America in 1964. Practically his entire broader family (relatives) lived in New Orleans at the time, and later moved back to Croatia. Everyone except Drago, who fell in love with Klara Buconić, a girl that had arrived in New Orleans from Dubrovnik in 1957. They married the following year after having known each other for only three weeks and moved to Canada. In 1964 they moved to New Orleans with their two sons.

Drago found employment in a restaurant operated by his sister. There he learned the ropes and the secrets of the trade that would go on to earn him his own fame. He also learned to cook and was known as the most productive oyster breeder in Louisiana. He entered the hospitality business following the model of his relative Drago Batinić who ran Drago’s restaurant in Lakeview at the time. When Batinić closed his restaurant they decided to preserve the name and launch their own business. They opened their first restaurant in 1969.

At the time Drago would drive upwards of three hundred kilometres a day to bring fresh oysters to the restaurant. He also brought famed creole cook Mama Ruth Jenkins into the business. The Cvitanović couple wished to offer their customers seafood prepared in multiple fashions at affordable prices in a family setting. Oysters were always at the top of their menu.

Drago’s restaurant now operates at three locations. Drago had been in retirement for the past twenty years and his business was continued by his family, with the restaurants run by his son Tommy.

The Cvitanovich family is known for its generosity and philanthropy and Drago and Klara are the recipients of many restaurant and gastro industry awards.

“Drago and Klara Cvitanovich immigrated to the United States with a vision that only hard work and perseverance could make happen. What they gave to their sons and others is an example for generations to follow,” reads the inscription on the Monument to the Immigrant on the shores of the Mississippi River in New Orleans.
(Fenix Magazin)