SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Bossier City Council has approved a conditional use permit for the sale and consumption of high and low-content alcohol for the city’s newest eatery.
Gator tacos, lobster mac & cheese, boudin balls, and charbroiled oysters will be a few of the south Louisiana favorites when Drago’s, one of the most beloved restaurant chains in the state, opens a new location in Margaritaville.
A quick search of the dining options available at Margaritaville Resort and Casino reveals the newest import.
While Drago’s will be a new spot in Shreveport-Bossier, the Louisiana eatery has a rich history.
Inspiration for immigration
Drago and Klara Cvitanovich founded the popular New Orleans eatery in 1969.
Klara is from Yugoslavia, a European territory that is now split into six nation-states.
She remembers the little village where she grew up, so tiny there were only 19 houses. Klara said communists took all of her father’s possessions and Eastern Europe was in a state of unrest.
Klara was determined to get away and start a new life in the United States.
“Right after I graduated from high school in Croatia (then Yugoslavia), I went to visit my father’s sister in New Jersey.”
Klara said she knew about Drago because he was a terrific writer. They were pen pals for about a year before meeting in person.
“He was very well educated,” Klara said. “I spent a few months in New York and New Jersey, but I really did not like New York that much.”
While in New Jersey, Klara connected with a relative who was originally from New Orleans and had enrolled at Columbia University.
“For spring break she said ‘All right let’s go to New Orleans,” Klara gushed. “She said we’re driving; come with us. So I said okay, I’ll go. And I never went back to New Jersey other than to visit.”
She continued writing to Drago until the two had a chance to meet in New Orleans.
“We used to write letters to each other, and when I came to New Orleans for Mardi Gras he came down here.”
The couple met for the first time at the airport.
“I said, Oh my God, he is so good-looking,” of the moment she first saw Drago. “We got married four weeks later,” Klara said. “Yes, I said four weeks later.”
The newlywed couple loved New Orleans, and Drago knew he wanted to go in on a restaurant with his sister. However, he had not yet gained legal citizenship.
“It took (Drago) 12 years to find a legal way to enter the United States,” Klara remembered.
After getting married, the couple returned to Canada, where the couple’s sons were born.
“We found out his American visa had been approved, so we sold everything we had, picked up three suitcases, two babies, $2300, and here we were. He (Drago) worked for (his sister) for nine years after we returned back from Canada. Then we opened his restaurant.”
Klara believes they achieved the biggest American dream for anybody.
“Every night and every Sunday, and during the day, I had another job. I used to manage a travel agency for a department store.”
And because she always wanted to return home, Klara opened her own travel agency.
Klara worked for forty-nine years in the travel industry. When she didn’t need the travel agency anymore, she sold it for $1.
“I sold it to a lady who worked for me for 19 years.”
Drago died in 2017, and to this day, Klara will still work at the Metairie restaurant. The couple was married for 59 years.
“Look at us today,” she said of their family. “We have six restaurants. Yes, it was a lot of work. It was a lot of sacrifices. But everything was well worth it.”
Through the years and abundant blessings, Drago and Klara were able to help others.
“When we could give to other people, we did,” she recalled. “When New Orleans was flooded after Katrina, we served 78,000 free meals to help those in need. Whoever needed help, we were there.”
The family continues giving to different schools the children once attended and to their church. And Klara says her faith was a large part of their strength.
“I believe in the American Dream. That’s not gonna change. I wish America was not as divided as we are, but it’s going to work out,” she said.
Klara considers herself 100% American even though she wasn’t born here.
She says the pair didn’t have much time to think or worry about anything because they were always working.
“I would do it all over again—same way, same tempo,” she said. “I have two great sons—Tommy, who runs the restaurant, and Gerry, who is a physician at Ochsner Hospital and in administration.”
What else could a person born in a little village with 19 houses in Croatia want from life – Klara mused.
And for the dreamers and doers, she offers some old-school advice that is so needed in this fast-paced, modern world.
“Don’t ever give up. You’re going to have stumbles along the way. You’re going to have hard times. Overlook them and just go ahead. Live your dream.”
And yes, the rumors are true.
“It will be great to come up to Shreveport to the new Dragos in the next couple of months,” Klara told KTAL.
Drago’s current locations are in Metairie, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Jackson, Mississippi
According to Drago’s website the Bossier City location is “coming soon!”