A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from September 22, 2005
Ray’s Pizza (started by Ralph)
Many pizza places have "Ray" in the name. It all began in 1959 with Ray's Pizza at 27 Prince Street.

Rays Pizza, 1986-2005

New York City is full of pizza joints claiming to be the 'Original' Ray's, but this one in Prince Street is reckoned to be the real deal - and it comes with an interesting history!

According to pizza folklore, Ray's Pizza was named after Ralph Cuomo who opened it in 1959.

Unfortunately, Cuomo decided to supplement his income by making heroin deals in the restaurant's basement on behalf of the Luchese crime family, and was sent to prison in 1998.

2 May 1987, New York Times, pg. 29:
You Can Call It
Ray's, but Expect
A Lawsuit to Go
Now, Rosolino Mangano has decided to do something about it himself. Mr. Mangano, who opened his first Original Ray's Pizza at 1073 First Avenuie - and went on to open nine additional Original Ray's - said yesterday that he has filed a lawsuit to enjoin the multitudinous and mounting number of Ray's pizza parlors in Manhattan from using the good name of Ray.

This would apparently include, but would not be limited to: Ray's Pizza, Original Ray's, Ray's Original, Famous Ray's, Ray's Famous, Famous and Original Ray's, the One and Only Famous Ray's, Real Ray's and so on.
Most of the Ray's in New York - those in the business say there are dozens - are unrelated, yet most seem to have certain characteristics in common. Virtually all claim to be the first Ray's. Also, they all claim that theirs is the best Ray's pizza available at any price and that the other Ray's are ruining their reputation. And none seems to have a real Ray.

(Original Ray's opened in 1964 and was not the first - ed.)

25 March 1991, New York Times, pg. A1:
In a Pizza War, It's 3 Rays Against the Rest
(...)(Pg. B2 - ed.)
A Ray Named Ralph. Documents gathered during the Rays' legal battle show that there was no Ray's Pizza listed in the 1959 Manhattan telephone book. That was the year Ralph Cuomo, the 22-year-old son of immigrants from southern Italy, opened a pizzeria in Little Italy, using his mother's recipe.

It was at 27 Prince Street, between Mott and Elizabeth Streets, on the first floow of a building that his family lived in and owned. The next year's telephone book listed the name: Ray's Pizza.

Why not Ralph's Pizza?

"Ralph's might have sounded, I don't know, maybe too feminine," Mr. Cuomo explained last week. "Besides, nobody ever called me Ralph. My family took the Italian word for Ralph - Raffaele - and shortened it to Rayfie or just Ray. All my life I was addressed that way."

Posted by Barry Popik
Restaurants/Bars/Coffeehouses/Food Stores • (0) Comments • Thursday, September 22, 2005 • Permalink