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Meet Ralph Perrazzo, the hot dog king of Las Vegas

Updated May 27, 2022 - 4:11 pm

Over the bumpy past few years, life gave many people in the food and beverage industry figurative lemons, and some made metaphorical lemonade out of them. When Las Vegas’ Ralph Perrazzo was served sour fruit, he made frankfurters. Real ones, that is, not metaphorical.

Food is Perrazzo’s world. “I’m an Italian kid from New York. I was going to elementary school with soppressata, provolone and bread for sandwiches when the other kids were eating Lunchables,” Perrazzo says of his youth in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and Lake Grove, Long Island. “I grew up around great cured meats.

“I’m very grateful I had that lifestyle as a young boy because I ate such amazing stuff — that’s really why I became a chef in the first place,” he said.

He worked in local restaurants as a youth and eventually made it to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park to complete an associate’s degree. On weekends, he would work in New York City under famed chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

“That introduced me to a whole new world of meats — game like duck, pheasant and squab, things I’d never seen,” he said.

From a young age, he experimented with crafting emulsified sausages.

“I used to make a provolone cheese Italian sausage at home all the time for my family,” Perrazzo said.

After culinary school, he eventually opened his own restaurant on Long Island: BBD’s. After gaining attention from East Coast food lovers, he was approached to move the eatery to Palace Station, where it became an instant darling in Las Vegas foodie circles thanks to its impressive in-house butchery and inventive meat dishes like pork pastrami.

Alas, the restaurant was not a natural fit with the casino’s general clientele, and Perrazzo bowed out at the end of his lease, looking to move the BBD brand to the Strip. And then, boom — COVID struck. He was out of a restaurant and out of a job. He and his fiancée, Bailey Kirkpatrick, were looking for new professional horizons.

A frank assessment

“I had a few months of soul searching — what do I do?” Perrazzo said. “My fiancée said one day, ‘Why don’t you just make and sell hot dogs?’” he recounted.

“‘Honey, it’s not so easy to make and sell hot dogs,’” he retorted. “But then I kind of marinated in it.”

After a few days, he made some calls to trusted colleagues in the food service industry. He sent them some handmade batches of franks, and they helped him find a USDA facility to produce preservative- and filler-free links at a wholesale scale. Soon enough, he was in the hot dog business big time.

First, the facility produced a couple of batches of dogs, and Perrazzo decided to get the word out about his venture the old-fashioned way.

“I basically was, ‘I’m going to give these to people,’” he said. “I took about 2,000 pounds and reached out to people — chefs, family friends, owners of hotels, food and beverage directors, you name it. I drove around and gave out product; people called me the hot dog Santa.”

He didn’t charge for those first packs of wieners and only asked for feedback. The Snap-O-Razzo brand was born, and it’s now thriving with Kirkpatrick as an essential partner in the growing operation.

“I’m very detail-oriented and technical: I help with the paperwork. I set up new vendors,” Kirkpatrick said. Her expertise is especially on display at snaporazzo.com, which she helped create.

“I built the entire back end, connecting it to Shopify,” said Kirkpatrick, noting that she makes sure shipping is accurate and that she’s always “trying to find little ways to improve efficiencies.”

Beyond online availability for home cooking, Snap-O-Razzo hot dogs can be found hot and ready to eat at a growing roster of Las Vegas Valley establishments, including the posh Summit Club in Summerlin, where they were put on the menu by executive chef Geno Bernardo.

“I’ve known Ralph for a long, long time. He’s a young artisanal chef who really cares how the hot dog is made. He took a long time to make sure that it’s the best of the best,” Bernardo said.

Snap-O-Razzos — which go great with cold beer — can also be found at the Silver Stamp bar in the Arts District and at the historic Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings. Raiders fans can munch on the dogs at Allegiant Stadium during games. And, in the broadest availability, they can be found spinning on heated rollers at Green Valley Grocery stores from Henderson to Mesquite.

An expanding line

The Snap-O-Razzo brand is based on two core frankfurter styles: all-beef dogs designed to be crisped on a griddle and beef-pork dogs meant to be heated in hot water. Both varieties are maple smoked and feature natural lamb casings.

Perrazzo has also created roasted jalapeño wieners, maple-cheddar sausages, custom hot dog buns, hot dog seasoning powder, garlic-onion baby dill pickles, mini-dogs and onion sauce (a favorite of New York City ex-pats). More products are on the horizon, like a halal hot dog.

Long on personality

There is no doubt that some of the success of Snap-O-Razzo’s brand success comes from Perrazzo’s larger-than-life personality. He has the build of a brawler and sports an impressive beard that would make Moses proud. He is frequently seen in Hawaiian-style aloha shirts. He’s not a quiet kind of fellow, either. He has opinions and is not afraid to share them. But really he’s a smiler with a great big heart (he frequently participates in philanthropic events), and those brawler’s arms are used for hugging and lugging around boxes of linked franks more than anything. His friends call him “Ralphie.”

He’s a family man, as well, and his website has a charming collection of vintage family photos. And then there’s Boudin, the third Snap-O-Razzo staffer. He’s Perrazzo and Kirkpatrick’s adorable dachshund and is named after the Cajun-style sausage (but of course).

Boudin is the epitome of calm, cool and collected when he rides along with the duo in his own sidecar attached to Perrazzo’s Harley-Davidson and is known to draw fans when the trio visit vendors and events on weekends.

Nobody can resist a wiener dog wearing American flag-tinted goggles. “We’re like a little team, the three of us,” Perrazzo said.

Contact Greg Thilmont at gthilmont@reviewjournal.com. Follow @gregthilmont on Instagram.

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