Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Famous Roio's

When Famous Ray's Pizza vanished from the corner of 6th and 11th back in October, we never expected it to return, especially not with news of lawsuits in the air over rights to the name Ray's. Then we heard that competitor Famous Original Ray's would be moving in. But that was not to be.

This week, Ray's reopened--with a new name and the original original owner.



Mario DiRienzo and his brother Lamberto first opened The Famous Ray's Pizza on this corner in August of 1973. They closed the shop in the 1980s and Mario rented it out to numerous other pizza places over the years. Today he is back behind the pizza counter. "I tried not to come back," he told me--it's difficult to be here without Lamberto, who passed away--but "things happen" and here he is.

Since Mario reopened on April 16, long-time customers have flooded in to welcome him back to the neighborhood. "I feel like crying," he said with tears in his eyes. "So much appreciation from people." He had no idea that he'd been missed, and that he'd be remembered so fondly.


Mario today

Newer customers who don't recognize Mario's face from the 1970s will find it all along the walls, where he has hung framed copies of vintage photos and news articles about his pizza place, including one from 1983 that recalls the time he sent an order of 40 pizza pies all the way to London.


Mario in the 1970s

Also on the wall is a photo of the bus that his father once drove back and forth across the Italian village of Roio del Sangro. In the photo, a very young Mario pokes his head from the bus window in a crowd of family and friends.



Mario decided to name the new old pizza place after his hometown, but Famous Roio del Sangro Pizza was "too long for a pizza place," so Famous Roio's was enough.

"I wish I'd changed the name years ago," he told me. "There was too much going on with Ray's--Famous Ray's and Original Ray's. It's been very confusing. So I'm happy I changed it. Now I'm distinguished from the others."



As for the infamous rivalry with Famous Original Ray's, Mario says there is no rivalry. "I have great respect for the Original Ray's and they respect me. We've known each other over 40 years. We're good friends."


the 1976 mosaic of Montecatini still stands

15 comments:

Ms. said...

one great story sure lightens the load of so many sad ones.

Anonymous said...

great story! thanks!

Carol Gardens said...

I'm sure this guy served me pizza many times in my teens years. The big test of the place's authenticity will be: do they pile on the cheese so thick that you have to use a knife and fork?

JAZ said...

Agree with Ms. - it's nice to have a little good news. Gonna get over there for a slice or 2 some time today.

Marty Wombacher said...

This is great news and I loved that photo of Mario in the '70's! Going to stop by soon, thanks for reporting this good news!

Utherben said...

This post made my day - Ray's on 11th & 6th was one of my favorite childhood places! I'm gonna try to get over there after work sometime this week and grab a slice.

David S said...

Fantastic! I wrote about the closing of Ray's in my blog. I will happily update it!

http://breakfastintoronto.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/we-interrupt-this-blog-rays-pizza-greenwich-village-nyc/

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Thanks for the news! Walked by that sign yesterday morning & was wondering about it. Great.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks all. Mario is a very nice guy, and it's fun to read all the history of the place on the walls. amazing to think that once a little pizza shop was all abuzz.

esquared said...

I'm always confused as to which was the original and real "Ray's" pizza -- Famous Ray's, Original Ray's, Famous Original Ray's, Original Famous Ray's, Ray's, Ray's II, Real Ray’s ...

Now, there'll be no confusion with Famous Roio's. And should be there imitators and competitors in the future, e.g. Original Famous Roio's, etc., I'd know this one is the original.

eatenbybears said...

Wow. Unvanishing New York.

Anonymous said...

An excellent pizzeria! The best part of the pizza is the rich, full tomato sauce. Truly a great, authentic italian pizza pie. I can't wait to come back!

Anonymous said...

We are so prowd of you Mario !!!

We know where we will come to celebrate the next thanksgiving.

See you in Roio this summer .

Bacioni
Antonio, Adrien, Melissa and Catherine Di Rienzo in France.

Anonymous said...

I live around the area, I ate there almost everyday !!! Then i moved to Florida. missed this place so bad, after I heard they closed down it makes me wanna cry that's how I loved the place, I heard they open, I decided to drive thousands of miles to see Mario and this time I broke down in tears of happiness .. Great and best pizza I've ever had in my whole life .

Alex (on the interweb) said...

Unfortunately, ROIO'S PIZZA will be closing on Wednesday, November 27. =(