Ray's Pizza, and its many variations such as "Ray's Original Pizza", "Famous Ray's Pizza" and "World-Famous Original Ray's Pizza", are the names of dozens of pizzerias in the New York City area that are generally completely independent (a few have multiple locations) but may have similar menus, signs, and logos.
Ralph Cuomo opened the first Ray's Pizza, at 27 Prince Street in Little Italy, in 1959, named after his nickname "Raffie". In the 1960s he briefly owned a second Ray's Pizza, but sold it to Rosolino Mangano in 1964. Mangano kept the name and later claimed that his was the first. In 1973, Mario Di Rienzo named his new pizzeria Ray's Pizza (which is now closed) after, he claimed, the nickname for his family in Italy. Also that year, Joseph Bari purchased a pizzeria from Mangano and renamed it, and several others, as Ray Bari Pizza. By 1991, dozens of pizzerias in New York City had "Ray's" in their name, as well as those in other American states.
In 1981, Gary Esposito purchased a pizzeria from Mangano. After opening several more "Original Ray's" restaurants, he partnered with Cuomo and Mangano to combine independent "Ray's" restaurants into an official franchise chain. As of 2011[update] there were at least 49 restaurants by some variant of that name in the New York City telephone directory, including one named Not Ray's Pizza. The confusion was the basis of a joke on the Seinfeld episode "The Maid" when Jerry asks whether Kramer is calling from outside Ray's Pizza, Famous Ray's, Original Ray's, or Famous Original Ray's. In the 2003 film Elf, Santa Claus tells Buddy the Elf, "Second, there are, like, 30 Ray's Pizzas. They all claim to be the original, but the real one's on 11th."
The first Ray's Pizza closed its doors on Sunday, October 30, 2011, following a legal dispute over rent and a lease that followed its owner's death in 2008. Half of the space that once housed Ray's Pizza has been leased to a new company, Prince Street Pizza. Meanwhile, Famous Ray's Pizza on Sixth Avenue and 11th Street (pictured), which had served pizza since the 1970s, closed down in 2011, reopened under the name "Famous Roio's Pizza" in 2012, and closed again in 2013. A Chinese restaurant now occupies the space.
- Tierney, John (March 25, 1991). "In a Pizza War, It's 3 Rays Against the Rest". The New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
- Wilson, Michael (September 17, 2011). "Ray's Pizza, the First of Many, Counts Down to Its Last Slice". The New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
- Lurio, Eric (May 11, 2009). "Fifty Years: The Legend of Ray's Pizza". Huffington Post. Retrieved February 16, 2010.
- "Pizza ray" in the New York, NY area YellowPages.com
- "The quotable Santa Claus". The State Journal-Register. Springfield, Illinois: GateHouse Media. December 14, 2009. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- Wilson, Michael (October 24, 2011). "Ray's Pizza, 'the' Ray's Pizza, Will Close on Sunday". The New York Times.
- Swalec, Andrea (December 5, 2011). "Famous Ray's Pizza in Village to Be Taken Over By Another Ray's". DNA Info. Archived from the original on January 15, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- "Square Up at Prince Street Pizza in Soho". slice.seriouseats.com. Retrieved 2015-12-06.
- Famous Ray's on Sixth Ave Reopens as Famous Roio's
- NYC Loses Iconic Pizzeria Space With Shuttering of Roio's