Ninfa Laurenzo


Ninfa Laurenzo was the founder of the multi-million dollar restaurant chain, Ninfa's, that grew from one small Houston restaurant. In 1948, she and her husband started Rio Grande Food Products Company, drawing on their Mexican and Italian backgrounds. They made and sold pizza dough and tortillas on the east side of Houston, and made enough to support their family of five children.

After her husband died in 1969, Laurenzo continued to keep the company running, though it was a struggle. In 1973, in a converted space in her factory, she opened a small restaurant serving Mexican food from her recipes. Word soon spread about the quality and business became so good that she opened her second restaurant in 1976.

Realizing that she might have equal success serving Italian food, Laurenzo opened Bambolino's Italian Drive-Thru the next year. Later, she opened Joey Jack's Seafood, a high-quality seafood house.

In 1979, Ninfa Laurenzo was named "Business Woman of the Year" by the National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and "Woman Restaurateur of the Year" by the Texas Restaurant Association. In 1988 she seconded George H.W. Bush's nomination as president at the Republican National Convention. That year she was also named to the Texas Women's Hall of Fame.

Biography Source Information

Biographies are reprinted from the Foundation for Women’s Resources (now Women’s Resources), Dallas, Texas. They originally appeared in "From Gutsy Mavericks to Quiet Heroes: True Tales of Texas Women," video study guide, Austin: The Foundation for Women's Resources, 1997. Death dates have been added where needed.