University of Houston Libraries, Special Collections

Guide to the Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo Papers

Overview of the Collection

Creator Laurenzo, Ninfa
Collection Title Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo Papers
Dates 1971-2004
Identification 2008-008
Physical Description 9.00 Linear Feet
Language of Materials English
Repository University of Houston Libraries M.D. Anderson Library 4333 University Drive Houston, TX, 77204-2000 URL: Email: Phone: 713-743-9229

Biographical Information:

In 1969, Ninfa’s husband died suddenly, and she was left to raise five children. Ninfa mortgaged her house and opened a little taqueria on the site of the tortilla factory. In 1973, she opened a ten-table restaurant, serving her mother’s recipes and adding her own. With money from a friend in Mexico, Ninfa soon opened a second dining room and later pushed out a wall to expand again. Within ten years, the single restaurant expanded into a multi-million dollar business with nine restaurants in Houston and one in Dallas. In 1985, Ninfa employed 800-1000 people and served about two million people per year. Some believe that Ninfa Laurenzo laid the foundation for the Mexican restaurant industry in Houston.

Ninfa’s restaurants were so successful that expansion came fast and led to excessive debt. Restaurants opened too quickly and without reliable store managers. In 1985, Ninfa, USA became a subsidiary of McFaddin, which employed her sons as executives. Ninfa remained with Ninfa’s Inc. That arrangement did not last. By 1997, an Austin restaurant chain bought the company to pull it out of bankruptcy.

With her success, Ninfa gave back to the community with nonprofit service. She served on the boards of the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, Houston Community College System, Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority and Houston Hispanic Forum. She received many rewards as well, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Business Recognition Award, for example. In 1984, Vice-President George Bush appointed Ninfa to be one of five goodwill ambassadors to welcome Pope John Paul II to Puerto Rico. In 1996, Ninfa Laurenzo was named one of eight Legends of Texas along with Walter Cronkite and Barbara Jordan, for their impact on Texas and their local communities. Ninfa was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998, and Theater under the Stars made her life into a musical.

Ninfa Laurenzo represented her community politically as well. In 1988, Ninfa seconded George H. W. Bush’s nomination for president in the Republican Convention in New Orleans. In 1992, Ninfa was co-chair of the hospitality committee for the Republican Convention in Houston where she opened the convention with a speech in both English and Spanish, and she led the delegates in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Through marriage, the Laurenzo family is tied to both the Mandolas and Carrabas. At the opening of a new restaurant, one of Ninfa’s sons, Tom Laurenzo said, “We have a story to tell about a woman who is a great cook and about her family that followed her into the business.” Ninfa Laurenzo died in 2001, but her restaurants and her children’s restaurants continue as landmarks in Houston’s cultural history.

Scope and Contents

Ninfa’s Papers include business plans, business, personal, and political correspondence, photographs, magazine and newspaper clippings press coverage, proof of public service deeds, scrapbooks, artifacts (buttons and stamps, memorabilia, menus, plaques), and framed enlarged picture and media items and roughly cover the years from 1971 to 2001.


Conditions Governing Access:

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Special Collections owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, locating copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electric form. For more information, consult the appropriate librarian.

Photocopy decisions will be made by Special Collection staff on a case-by-case basis. Patrons are responsible for obtaining permission to publish from copyrights holders.

Access Terms

This Collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Genre/Form of Material:
Topical Term:
Business planning -- Restaurants
Mexican American cooking
Mexican Americans -- Study and teaching

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation:

Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo Papers. Special Collection, University of Houston Libraries.

Acquisition Information:

Donated by Phyllis Mandola

Detailed List of Contents

Biographical undated

Box Folder
1 1 Personal and Business Biographies undated

Business Plans and Training 1977-2000

Box Folder
1 2 Trust/Insurance Documents 1977-2000
3 Prospectus, Plans, and Company Profiles 1984-1989
4 Rio Star Corporation Business Plan and Stock 1984-1989
5 Ninfa’s Price List and Balance Sheet 1984-1988
6 Bambolino’s Business Plan 1987-1989
7 Career Development Program undated
8 Ninfa Training Handbook undated

Correspondence 1986-2001

Box Folder
1 9 Business 1986-2001
10 Personal 1986-2001
11 Personal Contacts 1988-2000
12 Washington D.C. - Political 1991

Photographs 1971-1999

Box Folder
1 13 Ninfa’s Friends- Photo Greetings 1971
14 Restaurant 1983
15 Ninfa’s Friends- Bar Mitzvah 1987 1987
16 New Year’s Eve 1987
17 Ninfa’s Anniversary Party 1987
18 Texas Association of Mexican-American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) Convention 1987
19 Bambolino's 1987
20 In the Park 1987
21 Little League Parade 1987
22 Thanksgiving Day Party and Catering 1987
23 USA Treasurer’s: Visit to Ninfa’s at Navigation 1987
24 Ninfa’s Tenth 10th Anniversary at Westheimer 1987
25 Town and Country 1987
26 Bambolino’s Unit 1988
27 Inside Restaurants 1988
28 Ninfa’s Kirby Customers 1988
29 Houston International Festival, Houston Library Plaza 1988
30 Contest Winners at Ninfa’s West,Santos Family and Ninfa 1988
31 Trip Winner’s at Ninfa’s West,Girl Scout Cookie Show at Dillard’s 1988
32 Joey Jack Seafood Grand Opening 1988
33 Ninfa 1988
34 Texas Women Hall of Fame Award Ceremony 1988
35 George Herbert Walker Bush Inauguration 1989
36 Hernandez Open House 1989
37 Christmas Party at Ninfa’s 1989
38 Ninfa Birthday Party with Photos and Guest List 1989-1994
Box Folder
2 1 Arthritis Award 1990
2 Ninfa’s Cuisines 1990
3 George Herbert Walker Bush Republican Convention 1992
4 Family and Baptism 1992
5 NASA 1992
6 At Ninfaritas 1993
7 Travel 1995-1999
8 Ninfa’s Friends undated
9 Ninfa Media Coverage undated
10 Ninfa and Restaurant Signs undated
11 Ninfa Restaurant Parade undated
12 Restaurant Black Tie Event undated
13 Ninfa at Bambolino’s West Chase undated
14 Bambolino’s undated
15 Awards and Ceremonies undated
16 Family and Friends undated
17 Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego undated
18 Buenos Aries Cathedral, Boca and Recoleta Cathedral undated
19 Miscellaneous undated
20 Ninfa’s Restaurant undated
21 Laurenzo’s undated
22 Ninfa at Channel 2 Muscular Dystrophy Awards (MDA) Awards undated
23 Laurenzo’s Pasta and Sea Food undated
24 Ninfa’s Restaurant Signs undated
25 Grand Opening of Ninfa’s at Old Spanish Trail undated
26 Restaurant Gatherings undated
27 Social Gathering undated
28 Bellaire Gracias Opening undated
29 Ninfa at Navigation undated
30 Ninfa at Foley’s Cooking Fiesta undated
31 Ninfa at a Clown Celebration undated
32 Ninfa at Atchafalaya Restaurant undated
33 Ninfa with Phil Gramm undated
34 Strake for Lt. Governor undated
35 Ninfa in a Parade undated
36 Party at Ninfa’s Cantina undated
37 Ninfa’s Restaurant Opening undated
38 Puerto Madryn, Puerto Roma Sea Lions, Welsh Tea House,Montevideo, Buenos Aries undated
39 Buenos Aries, Argentina undated
40 A Party at Westheimer undated
41 Party in Puerto Varas, Chile undated
42-46 Ninfa’s Cuisines undated

Press Coverage

News Kits 1980-1988
Box Folder
2 47 Bambolino’s 1986-1987
48 Bambolino’s 1988
49 Ninfa Restaurant 1980-1981
Magazines 1986-1994
Box Folder
3 1 Houston City Magazine 1986
2 Houston Gourmet Cooks Magazine - Cookbook 1987
3 Houston Gourmet 1987
4 Houston Gourmet 1988
5 Profiles - Special Collector’s Issue 1992
6 Houston Gourmet 1994

Public Service 1986-2004

Box Folder
3 7 Event Programs 1986-1988
8 Event Programs 1989-2000
9 The Economic Summit 1990
10 Speeches 1987-1989
11 Speeches 1989-1993
12 Cancer Contributions 1991-1992
13 Community Affiliations List 1991-1992
14 Award Certificates 1991-2000
15 YMCA 1999
16 Check Donations 2000
17 Holocaust, Galveston-Houston & Lion’s Bank 1998-2001
18 Gulf Blood Bank 1998
Box Folder
4 1 Gulf Blood Bank 1999-2001
2 University of St.Thomas Letter of Appreciation 2001
3 Laurenzo Early Childhood Center 2004

Artifacts 1978-2003

Ephemera 2003
Box Folder
4 4 Mural Dedication Ceremony 2003
5 Buttons and Stamps undated
6 Advertising Specialties 1 undated
7 Advertising Specialties 2 undated
8 Friendship Sentiments undated
9 Ninfa Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) Script 1988/1989
10 Ninfa Gift Certificates undated
Menus 1985-1986
Box Folder
4 11 Child and Regular Menus 1985
12 Laurenzo’s Italian Bar & Grill Menu and Photos 1986
13 Ninfa Menus undated
14 Ninfa Menu Lunch Specials undated
15 Ninfa Restaurant Menu Covers undated
16 Ninfa’s Mexican Restaurant Menus- Clearwater, Florida undated
17 Ninfa’s Mexican Restaurant Menus- Houston, Texas undated
Plaques 1978-1997
Box Folder
4 18 A Chicana Salute to Ninfa from the Chicana Caucus 1978
19 Texas Mexican- American Business Hall of Fame 1979
Box Folder
5 1 Ninfa’s E.E.I Excellence Award 1979
2 Ninfa’s Big Brothers and Sisters of Houston President’s Award 1982
3 Ninfa Grand Marshall of 1987 Parade Award 1987
4 Houston Young Lawyers Association Liberty Bell Award 1990
5 Ninfa Honorary 1st Degree Black Belt 1993
6 Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist 1994
7 South Houston Spanish Club Support Award 1996
8 Ninfa’s MexStudies Generous Support Award @ UH 1997
9 Boy Scouts and Roland Laurenzo as Chairman undated
10 Ninfa’s Guardian Member Award for Boy Scouts undated
11 Leadership Member Award- Ninfa of Boy Scouts undated
12 University of Houston- Downtown College- Professor for a Day Award undated

Scrapbooks 1979-1990

Box Folder
5 13 Dutch Fiesta 1979-1990
14 George Herbert Walker Bush souvenirs 1990

Oversized 1975-2004

Photographs 1988-1992
Box Folder
6 1 Ninfa 1988
2 Family 1992
Newspaper Clippings 1975-2004
Box Folder
6 3 Biographical 1975-2001
4 Restaurant Reviews 1987-2004
5 Political Coverage 1988-1992
Scrapbooks 1976-1990
Box Folder
7 1 Metro - In Appreciation 1976-1990
2 Random Restaurant Media 1979-1990
3 Restaurant Unit #5 1979
Box Folder
8 1 Ninfa Restaurant Media 1975-1979
2 Ninfa Restaurant Media 1981-1989
3 Houston Gracias Positives undated
Magazines 1985
Box Folder
8 4 Ninfa’s Cantina at Foley’s 1985
Framed Items (shelved) 1976-1994
Box Folder
9 1 Ninfa Laurenzo, Kaye Marvins- Houston, Photograph of Self 1976-1977
2 Jim McConn Ninfa Laurenzo Proclamation Award 1978
3 Outstanding Business Woman Award HouMex Chamber of Commerce 1978
4 Ninfa’s Thank You Award from George Herbert Walker Bush 1990
5 Maria Laurenzo Riostar Corporation Success Magazine Article 1992
6 The Houston Post, Business Houston, Christmas in July, Newpaperthon with Ninfa Laurenzo 1993
7 Winter Ball Honors 10 Women: Houston Post Style Section 1994
8 Bob Lanier Houston Mayor’s Proclamation of Ninfa Laurenzo Day 1994
9 Distinguished Member for Hispanic Boy Scouting 1994
10 Ninfa’s New Cantina- An Inside Restaurant Advertisements undated
11 Certificate of Appreciation from the American Cancer Society undated