One of the most beloved figures in Houston's restaurant community passed away Friday. Frankie B. Mandola, 68, died due to complications from a heart attack, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Mandola's career spanned five decades, beginning in 1974 when he opened a Cajun restaurant called Ray Hay's. Ultimately, Mandola bought out his business partners and changed the name to one that contemporary diners are still familiar with: Ragin Cajun.
In 1992, Mandola and Bubba Butera purchased midtown Italian restaurant Damian's Cucina Italiana from Mandola's cousin Damian Mandola. In addition to Damian's, Mandola also owned Mandola's Catering — two establishments which represent just one part of the Mandola family's indelible mark on Houston restaurants that also includes Tony Mandola's, Ciro's, Carrabba's, Nino's, and Vincent's.
Friends and customers alike will remember Mandola's gracious, friendly demeanor and the warmth of his spirit. "He was definitely a presence walking through a room," Mandola's son Johnny B. told the Chronicle. "He was loud, very loud, and very Italian."
Beyond his contributions to the restaurant community, Mandola also had a distinguished athletic career at both St. Thomas high school and Rice University. The Rice athletics department posted the following tribute to Mandola on Youtube.
Funeral arrangements for Mandola are still pending, but the service will take place Thursday.
Update: Per Mandola's obituary, funeral arrangements are as follows: Family will receive friends on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 from 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm with a rosary being recited at 7:00 pm in the Cemo Auditorium at St. Thomas High School, 4500 Memorial Drive, Houston, Texas 77007. Funeral Mass will be Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 10:00 am in the Cemo Auditorium at St. Thomas High School with interment to follow at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery, 6900 Lawndale Avenue, Houston, Texas 77023.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Texas Italian American Sports Foundation Scholarship Fund or P.O. Box 130163, Houston, TX 77019-0163.