In those early days after Hurricane Katrina, one heartwarming experience was spotting the Drago’s truck parked on Harrison Avenue, its cargo hold set up as a temporary kitchen where workers handed out hot lunches to anyone who had wandered back into that part of the storm-ravaged city. I still recall the silky taste of pasta spooned from a Styrofoam container, back when my neighborhood (like my kitchen) was painted in hues of brown and gray.
I would later learn that Drago’s started trucking free meals to people four days after the storm, and would give away 3,000 plates a day in the following four weeks.
So I’m not surprised that the local restaurant family continues to turn family milestones into public benefits. Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 11, in honor of Drago Cvitanovich’s 90th birthday, Drago’s Metairie location at 3232 N. Arnoult St. will be donating 100 percent of sales to the St. Bernard Project, a non-profit organization that funds the rebuilding of homes of Hurricane Katrina victims. The Cvitanovich family is guaranteeing a donation of at least one home for a family in the hospitality industry, estimated at $35,000, with a goal of raising $90,000, representing a thousand dollars for each year of Drago Cvitanovich’s life so far.
Drago’s Metairie location will be opening early for a special breakfast buffet from 7 to 10:30 a.m., followed by its traditional lunch and dinner service from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. And of course, there will be birthday cake, with a celebratory ceremony at 2 p.m. for Drago Cvitanovich. Tin addition, the Drago’s Charbroiling Engine, a fire truck equipped for grilling and catering, and the restaurant’s new EMS “Eat More Seafood” catering truck will make appearances outside the restaurant, serving food to go and accepting donations for the St. Bernard Project.
“Building homes for those in need is the perfect birthday present,” says Tommy Cvitanovich, Drago’s owner and its namesake’s son.
He’s right; who could top giving someone a new house as a way to mark four score and ten years?
Meanwhile, most others will be celebrating with another of Drago’s memory-inducing offerings: a dozen char-broiled oysters.
Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie.