Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Famous Ray's Pizza

Reader John DeFore wrote in yesterday to let us know that another Ray's Pizza has vanished from New York City. Fork in the Road announced the closure. Panic ensued, as this shuttering follows the loss of the very first Ray's on Prince Street.

But all may not be exactly as it seems.

Until yesterday afternoon, a sign on the door said that the pizza shop, a beloved fixture on 11th St. and 6th Ave., had closed due to a rent increase. That sign is now gone and there is another notice in the window--a Department of Buildings 2012 illuminated sign permit which states that the wording on the sign will be: PRIMA PIZZA.

Notice also that only pieces of the shop's existing signage have been removed--namely, the RAY'S parts. Only "Famous Ray's" has been torn from the facade and cut from the awning, leaving behind PIZZA and OF GREENWICH VILLAGE (plus two oddly unmolested apostrophes, one on 6th and one on 11th).

Rather than a rent-related closure, this appears to be the result of another skirmish in the ongoing war over the name Ray's. Gothamist had this story in June: "a group called USA Famous Original Ray's Licensing Corp. trademarked the name in 1991 and wants a slice of the action coming out of the The Famous Ray's on Sixth Avenue and 11th Street."

It appears they won.

Village Voice close-up

So Ray's of 6th and 11th won't be Ray's anymore. But it might be becoming Prima Pizza, which is actually the same company.

A quick search for Prima Pizza Corp, with the address of 465 6th Avenue (at 11th), reveals it's been in business here since 1988 under the name Ray's (though the company president is named Manjindr). So this Ray's was a Prima in disguise all along. There's another Prima Pizza in Queens and another in Bayonne and another in Passaic. Is it all the same company--or will we soon see the battle for Prima?

Whichever way this is going, I still can't fathom what they plan to do with those apostrophes. Not to mention the The's.


Andrew Fine said...

I hope the pizza is the same, cause it is some of the best in the city!

Elissa Stein said...

I was wondering the same thing about the strange banner editing. But, am relieved that pizza on 11th isn't a thing of the past. Thanks, as always, for being such a valuable resource.

Carol Gardens said...

This will always be "THE Ray's" to me. It was essential eating as a teen and later as an art student because they put such a huge amount of cheese on their slices. It was rather gross, actually, but could provide enough fat and calories to keep you going all day.

mingusal said...

This was once one of the great pizza joints in NYC, which, as Carol noted, used to put more cheese on their slices than anyone else in the city. In recent years though its ownership has changed and they now produce pretty much the same standard slice as all of the other bottom-end pizza places in town.

Grand St. said...

That sign permit is a curious thing, but if you search the NYS Div. of Corporations website, Prima Pizza Corp. (with offices at 465 6th and a CEO named Helena Altman), was dissolved in 1998.

Also, a couple of local merchants I'm acquainted with tell me that the landlord terminated Mr. Singh's month-to-month lease, and that he plans to give the space to his nephew to open the new pizzeria/restaurant.

Can't say for certain whether this is gossip or gospel, but I wouldn't expect a reincarnated Ray's at this location, Jere.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks for the gossip/info, Grand St. i'd be happy if it stays pizza, and doesn't become a cell-phone store, which is the vile image that flashed to my mind.

JaWz said...

This spot was Ray's long before 1988--just ask anyone who attended PS 41, or lived in the hood back in the 70's and 80's. Prima Pizza bought the business from someone else, as clearly explained in this Gothamist article: http://gothamist.com/2011/10/03/famous_rays_in_greenwich_village_cl.php The over-cheesing was the selling point back then too, but it was of a better quality. I always thought the reason it tasted crappier in the 90's and 2000's was that I was an adult and unable to appreciate it--but now I'm thinking 1988 was the turning point.

Tricia said...

I happened to walk by there last evening and was shocked to see Ray's closed. Stopped by the barbershop next door to ask what's what. One of the barbers said another pizzeria would open there and added that this one hadn't been so popular lately.
This was THE first and only Ray's Pizza for me, though I haven't eaten here in quite awhile. Did not realize they stopped putting a ton of cheese on their slices

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the comments about Ray's 70s&80s heyday, when it was a favorite teenage experience for me too! If anyone ever finds the recipes from that era, please post them online. Although that wonderful Ray's is gone, others may follow someday.