Our story begins in the early 1900s
Ancestors Luigi and Maria Zoia migrated from Padua, Italy to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada in the early 1900s, bringing their family to a new land near “America,” where they would have the opportunity to reap the rewards of their strong work ethic and family commitment. Luigi and Maria built a large boarding house in Canada, where they provided room and board for fourteen boarders.
This all took place during the prohibition era in the United States, and since Luigi served his homemade wine in the boarding house, he became known in the neighborhood as “The Bootlegger.” At the age of nine, their granddaughter, Maria, was sent to live with her grandparents to help with the cooking and cleaning in the boarding house.
In 1936, at 19, Maria met and married Albert Perry, a young man from across the river in Niagara Falls, New York. In 1943, Maria and Albert, along with their baby daughter Lorraine and Al’s 14-year-old sister Madeline, embarked on an adventure that would change their lives forever. For health reasons, Maria and Al reluctantly left their family and friends in Niagara Falls, New York, and moved west to a little-known, dry, and dusty town called Las Vegas, Nevada.
By 1944, Maria’s exceptional culinary skills nurtured by her grandmother, along with Al’s affable, outgoing personality, led them into the restaurant business. They honed their skills at the famous Fiesta Villa Ristorante of the 1940’s, where the “Legends of Hollywood,” including Howard Hughes, Clark Gable, Jane Russell, Clara Bow and stars of the 1940’s, “hung out” in Las Vegas.
Maria and Al opened their first Italian Restaurant with well known and respected Chef, Domenic Piscatelli.
While Liberace was the highest paid entertainer in Las Vegas earning $50,000 a week; Maria, Al, with family Angie and Lou Ruvo opened the Venetian Pizzeria on Fremont Street. (Pictured Angie, Larry Ruvo, Al, Lorraine and Maria)
While Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack were causing global excitement on the Las Vegas Strip; Maria, Al, with family Angie and Lou Ruvo opened the Venetian Restaurant on West Sahara Avenue. (Pictured Al, Maria, Angie and Lou)
Maria and Al’s daughter Lorraine, now a Las Vegas singer and entertainer, opened the historic Landmark Hotel with her group, “The Lauri Perry Four." Lorraine’s boss and owner of the hotel was Howard Hughes. With the money she earned from singing, Lorraine began to purchase vacant land in Las Vegas and on the “South Strip."
While Elvis was electrifying Las Vegas audiences, Maria and Al joined forces with their daughter, Lorraine, to build a restaurant on Lorraine’s land at Tropicana and Eastern. They named the restaurant, “The Bootlegger,” in honor of Maria’s grandfather, Luigi. (Pictured Lorraine, Maria and Al)
As an entertainer, restaurateur, and small business advocate, Lorraine ran for political office and became a Clark County Commissioner and the first woman chairperson of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority (LVCA.)
Lorraine was elected as the 32nd Lieutenant Governor of the State of Nevada, leading Tourism and Economic Development.
Lorraine, Maria, Al, Cousin Joel Davies, and family opened The Bootlegger Italian Bistro on Las Vegas Boulevard, “South Strip,” continuing the legacy. (Pictured Al and Maria)
Lorraine’s son, Ronnie Mancuso, joined the family business as chief operating officer. Ronnie’s background as a musician and music producer added a new generation of creativity and energy to the business. As the Bistro grew to a 24-hour, 7 days a week operation, Ronnie’s leadership allowed his mother, to continue her commitment as Lt. Governor for the State of Nevada, where she served for eight years overseeing the state’s tourism and economic initiatives, as well as serving as President of the Nevada State Senate.
Lorraine married recording artist and music variety talk show host Dennis Bono who brought his entertainment talents to the family enterprise.
Great-Grandmother Maria, Grandmother Lorraine, ‘Pa Pa’ Dennis, Ron, and Cousin Joel welcomed Ron’s son, Roman, to the work force at The Bootlegger, adding the 4th generation to the legendary family restaurant.
Chef Maria celebrated with family and friends her 100th birthday!
The four generations of family that own and operate The Bootlegger Bistro, Mama Maria, Ronnie, Lorraine, Roman, Dennis and Zia
Mama Maria passed away peacefully at age 102 surrounded by her family. Her family continues to provide exceptional service and food to our Las Vegas community.