Ray's Pizza

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:

It's a small town I come from. Although I am a Mario, in Roio I am also a Ray. The name Ray is a nickname for the family name of Di Rienzo. Every family has a nickname in my town. Someone asks, 'Did you see Mario?' and there are so many Marios in town you have to ask 'Which Mario?', so the answer is Mario Ray. And so my restaurant became The Famous Ray's Pizza. If it were The Famous Mario's, you would have to ask 'Which Mario?'

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.

Ray's Pizza in popular culture

The ubiquity of "Ray's Pizza" restaurants in New York City, and the similarity of their names, has been spoofed in popular culture:

Kramer: I miss home, and I don't even know how to get there.
Jerry: What's around you?
Kramer: I'm lookin' at Ray's Pizza. You know where that is?
Jerry: Is it Famous Ray's?
Kramer: No. It's Original Ray's.
Jerry: Famous Original Ray's?
Kramer: It's just Original, Jerry!

  • On Futurama, the 2001 episode "A Tale Of Two Santas", Bender becomes the new Santa Claus and gets accused of crimes against humanity at "Famous Original Ray's Superior Court."
  • Another Futurama episode features the characters eating at "Original Cosmic Ray's Pizza".
  • In the Will Ferrell movie Elf, Santa Claus warns the title character of the dangers he will face in New York, including that "there are, like, thirty Ray's Pizzas. They all claim to be the original. But the real one's on 11th."
  • The music video "Me and Mia" by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists takes place above a Ray's Pizza.
  • Nellie McKay's "Suitcase Song" from Get Away From Me contains the lyrics "Go to Famous Ray's/Buy ziti."
  • In Sex and the City episode 22 "The Caste System," Miranda and Steve go to Famous Original Ray's for a slice.
  • On Seinfeld, in the 1992 episode "The Good Samaritan", Elaine concocts a story to tell her friends about dating a matador, Eduardo Carrochio. Jerry exclaims, "Eduardo . . . Carrochio! That's good. That's very good. Kind of just rolls of the tongue. I wonder where on the upper west side a single girl might meet a matador? Perhaps Zabar's. Or Ray's Pizza!
  • In the 2008 Iron Man movie, Obadiah Stane, just off a plane from a Stark Industries board meeting in New York City, brings back a pie from Famous Original Ray's Pizza to Malibu, California.


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