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Friday, March 27, 2009

Ray's

There are subjects which are complex and extremely difficult to understand, like theoretical physics and abstract mathematics. And some have taken the already difficult a step further like Wittgenstein, Hegel and Jacques Derrida - try fathoming their writing and you can see why they have been accused of deliberate obscurantism.
Mix the already complex with deliberate obscurantism and what do you get? The saga of Ray's Pizza. Residents know and visitors quickly become aware of the endless parade of Ray's Pizzas and their variants in this city: Ray's Original Pizza, Famous Ray's Pizza, World-Famous Original Ray's Pizza, and even Not Ray's Pizza
I have dug into this story, giving myself adequate time to study the details. It does appear that Ray's Pizza at 27 Prince Street (in Little Italy) is the first NYC pizzeria bearing that name. It has been in business since 1959, and according to an investigative article in the New York Times in 1991, Ray's Pizza was first listed in the 1960 Manhattan telephone book. On my recent visit, a red banner strung indoors proclaimed their 50th anniversary. A faded photo of Joe Dimaggio hung near a framed, yellowing front page from the New York Times, all in the understated style characteristic of Cuomo's pizzeria.
Ray's was opened by Ralph Cuomo, the 22-year-old son of immigrants from southern Italy, using his mother's recipe. Problems began when Rosolino Mangano began opening Ray's around town. According to the 1991 article in the New York Times:
"In the early 1960's he [Ralph Cuomo] briefly had another Ray's Pizza at 1073 First Avenue near 59th Street, but he sold that, and in 1964 it ended up in the hands of . . .
A Ray Named Rosolino. The expansionist era began with Rosolino Mangano, an immigrant from Sicily, who used that First Avenue Ray's to found an empire which now includes a dozen Famous Original Ray's pizzerias in Manhattan, each adorned with a coat of arms featuring tomatoes, wheat and a cow."
And then there was a Ray named Gary:
"In 1981 Mr. Mangano sold a Ray's pizzeria at Second Avenue and 51st Street to Gary Esposito, who grew up in Floral Park, Queens. Mr. Esposito opened five more Original Ray's pizzerias on Long Island and in New Jersey, but he showed one remarkable bit of restraint. 'I have never said that I am Ray,' he declared last week. 'That's my claim to originality.' "
For more of this fascinating story, see the original Times article here.
The pizza? Excellent and one of my favorites in New York City, along with Two Boots. I love the pesto ...

Ray's features six types: Pesto with Basil and Black Olives; Fresh Tomato, Garlic & Ricotta; White Pie with Spinach Mushrooms & Ricotta; Black Olives & Tomatoes, Pepperoni & Ricotta and Ray's Special - Pepperoni, Mushrooms, Sausage, Onions & Peppers.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Still some more information from wikipedia:

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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray%27s_Pizza

istanbuldailyphoto said...

Looks delicious. Looks appetizing.

ChickenUnderwear said...

I have had many discussions as to which is the "real" "original" Ray's Pizza. That answer is debatable.

But, you can always tell the real New Yorker in the room. He ends the conversation by saying "I don't care what you say... what evidence you have...what website you show me. I know I am right!!!"

Samuel said...

I like the drippy oil look.

Mo said...

Physics and pizzas. That is not good for the digestion

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Brian Dubé said...

anonymous- I did read this story about the connection to the Gambino crime family. I thought I might let it go this time - but I guess the cat is out of the bag now. :)