I've always wondered where the original Ray's Pizza was, the one that gave birth to so many imitators around town. Now I know. Unfortunately, the reason I know is that it's closing and the New York Times wrote a long piece about it.
The first Ray's was just called Ray's. It's at 27 Prince Street, and was founded by a guy named Ralph Cuomo (who preferred the name Ray). Well, jeez, I know this place. I've walked by it many times. (Never eaten there.) Had no idea it was the real Ray's. The place is now closing over a dispute over the lease of the building, which was held by Cuomo, who died in 2008.
I learned a lot from the very entertaining Times article. One, he founded the place in 1959. Two, the confusion over which Ray's was the first one began when "In the 1960s, Mr. Cuomo briefly opened a second pizza shop, near East 59th Street, but he sold it, and that shop’s new owner, Rosolino Mangano, kept the name Ray’s. Other Ray’s Pizzas popped up, and Mr. Mangano insisted his was first." (Mangano sounds like a real schnook.) Three, Cuomo was connected to the Luchese family, dealt heroine, was arrested a few times, and spent time in jail.
The writer, Michael Wilson, got one thing right. The most common two words uttered in every pizzeria in town are: "What else?"