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NYC - Greenwich Village: The Famous Ray's Pizza of Greenwich Village

Ray's Pizza...Ray's Original Pizza...Famous Ray's Pizza...World-Famous Original Ray's Pizza...Not Ray's Pizza. In 2006, there were 47 pizzeria's listed in the phone book with some variation of the Ray's name. However they are not a franchise or even necessarily connected in any way.

 

The oldest of the current Ray's was opened by Ralph Cuomo at 27 Prince Street in 1959 near the country's first pizzeria, Lombardi's. Cuomo is more infamously known for serving something other than mozzarella and tomato, though. In 1998, he was sentenced to four years for fronting a heroin ring with the Lucchese crime family.

 

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 marquis now has in big letters "The Famous Ray's Pizza" and in smaller letters "Famous Ray's of Greenwich Village."

 

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?'" (NYT)

 

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Seinfeld, 9th season, "The Maid":

 

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!

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Taken on January 27, 2007