May 11, 1924 - June 17, 2001
"We all have so much that we must share with each other."
— Ninfa Laurenzo
M A M A' S S T O R Y
As a young girl, Ninfa learned the skills and caring needed to create delicious and unique Mexican dishes. Steeped in the beautiful culture of Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley, she learned how to make tamales, the delicate skill of making flour tortillas, and a multitude of traditional recipes. Primarily, she learned to use her imagination and creativity to invent new recipes inspired by an endless variety of flavors. This culinary mix included her family recipes, flavors of the Rio Grande Valley, and the Italian traditions of her husband, Thomas.
Ninfa met Thomas Laurenzo in Rhode Island. One year later, in 1946, they were married and subsequently decided to move to Texas to plant their roots. There they started a food manufacturing company named Rio Grande Food Products, featuring pizzas, tortillas, and Mexican food specialties serving Houston and the Gulf Coast region. The venture provided a modest income for the couple and their five children. They often spoke about their dream of opening a restaurant. Sadly, a most unfortunate intrusion of fate occurred... Thomas suddenly passed away in 1969.
After four years of struggling with increasing regulations and shrinking profits, Ninfa gathered the family and they unanimously decided to fulfill their dream of opening a family restaurant. The small factory was converted to a 10-table restaurant in June 1973. She used the pots and pans from her home, and her children, relatives, and friends worked where needed. Life's hardships dealt one more blow as if to test the family's resolve. A fire destroyed part of the restaurant only one week after opening. Once again Ninfa rallied the family and through her strength and leadership, they worked non-stop to re-open the doors one week later.
Within ten years, the single restaurant expanded into a multi-million dollar business with nine restaurants in Houston and one in Dallas. The remainder of the story is one of hard work and success while always giving back to the community.
Ninfa often talked about the importance of giving. “We all have so much that we must share with each other.”
Ninfa received many awards such as the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Award. In 1982, Theater Under The Stars made her life story into a musical called Ninfa! by Jim Bernhard, Frank Young, Ned Battista, and Don Elam.
In 1984, Vice President George Bush appointed her to be one of five goodwill ambassadors to welcome Pope John Paul II to Puerto Rico.
Mama Ninfa was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame in 1998.
Ninfa Laurenzo represented her community politically as well. In 1988, she seconded George H. W. Bush’s nomination for President at the Republican National Convention in Houston. She delivered the Pledge of Allegiance at the opening session of the Republican National Convention on August 17, 1992.
Mama Ninfa passed away in 2001 but her legacy of good deeds and goodwill is remembered by many and still serves as an example for others.
In 2004 Houston Independent School District built two facilities exclusively for the use of prekindergarten students. In recognition of Mama Ninfa as a community leader, the Ninfa Laurenzo Early Childhood Center was named in her honor.
The Ninfa Laurenzo Scholarship Fund is proud to continue Mama Ninfa's vision by supporting quality education and scholarship programs in Houston.
Esteban & Maura Rodriguez and Mama Ninfa's older siblings Ofelia, hortensia and Esteban Jr.
Mama Ninfa and sister Pilar.
Mama Ninfa age 19
Leaving beauty school
Mama's wedding day portrait
Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo
Mama Ninfa with family & friends
Rio Grande Tortilla Factory. Now Ninfa's
East End 1957
Husband Tom Laurenzo, Mama Ninfa, children Roland, Phyllis and Jack.
Mother's Day 1966
Husband Tom, Mama, children Tommy, Phyllis, Jack and Gino Laurenzo
Daughter in law Blanca Laurenzo, Mama Ninfa & daughter Phyllis.
Mama with her children
From left to right: Jack, Tom, Mama Ninfa, Phyllis and Roland.
Mama Ninfa with television personality Cristina Saralegui
Jan Glenn & Mama Ninfa
Mama & President George Bush
Daughter Phyllis, Mama Ninfa and First Lady Barbara Bush.
Mama Ninfa & family
Mama and daughter Phyllis
Mama, Phyllis & Tony Mandola
Mama at Ninfa's
Mama celebrating life!
Mama and her grandchildren