Ray's Pizza, or variations such as "Ray's Original Pizza," "Famous Ray's Pizza," "World-Famous Original Ray's Pizza,", etc, is the name of dozens of pizzerias in New York City. These establishments, supposedly famous for their delicious pizza, do not form any single franchise (although a few Ray's owners have multiple locations) and are generally completely independent of each other, although many have near identical menus and may even share signs and logos.
The oldest of the current Ray's Pizzas was opened by Ralph (Raffie) Cuomo of Little Italy, Manhattan at 27 Prince Street in 1959 near the country's first pizzeria, Lombardi's. He is the son of Matthew (Joe) Cuomo who was recognized as a made man and street soldier for the Gambino crime family. His father was first recognized by the FBI as a member of the Gambino crime family through the testimony of mob turncoat Joe Valachi. Cuomo was sentenced to four years in prison in 1998 for running a heroin ring out of the pizzeria with the Lucchese crime family. Now out of jail he still operates the restaurant. He has never taken credit for the boom in the Ray's Pizzas. He does display articles in the restaurant noting that his is the oldest existing restaurant of that name.
The spur for "a Ray's on every corner" in the 1970s, was Ray's at 6th Avenue and 11th Street owned by two brothers who immigrated from a town named Roio del Sangro in the Abruzzi region of Italy. The marquee now has in big letters "The Famous Ray's Pizza" and in smaller letters "Famous Ray's of Greenwich Village." It served a thick "eat it with a fork" slice which overtook New York in the ensuing years for a time making a classic thin-crusted New York street slice difficult to find.
Mario DiRienzo, the former owner, had this explanation for the name:
There was a Ray's avalanche of the '80s. As of 2007 there were at least 34 restaurants by some variant of that name as noted by the telephone directory. Ray's Pizza pizzerias were so numerous that one pizzeria owner opted to name his pizzeria Not Ray's Pizza.
The ubiquity of "Ray's Pizza" restaurants in New York City, and the similarity of their names, has been spoofed in popular culture: