Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Goodbye Famous Roio's

The up-and-down saga of the (formerly) Famous Ray's Pizza at 11th St. and 6th Avenue continues, as we hear from a commenter, and confirmed, that this pizza shop will be closing once again--tomorrow--and, most likely this time, for good.

Originally opened in 1973 by Mario and Lamberto DiRienzo, the pizzeria suddenly shuttered in October 2011.

It was later rescued and reopened by its original surviving owner in April 2012, but with its name changed from Famous Ray's to Famous Roio's to avoid lawsuits and tensions. Long-time fans flooded in with good wishes. Mario DiRienzo told me, "I feel like crying. So much appreciation from people." The beloved corner pizza joint seemed to have a new lease on life.

Then Mr. DiRienzo passed away in September 2012, just five months after reviving his shop. Roio's continued on without him over the past year.

Mario in 2012

Mr. DiRienzo had purchased the building in 1974, according to an archived New Yorker article. Recently, a FOR SALE sign was posted on the building. Massey Knakal has the listing (PDF) with an $8 million asking price. They write, "The entire ground floors can be delivered vacant, making the property ideal for a user or investor."

They note two businesses on the ground floor, the one on 6th Avenue (Roio's) and another on 11th Street that they say is currently on a month-to-month lease and also can be "delivered vacant."

That business is the Little Tony & Igor Be Good barber shop.

Christopher Lange's flickr

Originally opened on 6th Avenue some 40 years ago, the barber shop was bumped around the corner to this spot when the DiRienzo brothers expanded Famous Ray's in 1978. Owned by "Little" Tony Badalamenti, the shop continued after Tony's death in 2005, with Igor added.

Peter von Ziegesar recalled in The Villager that, after 9/11, Tony "kept the shop open all night to give haircuts to the firemen and the doctors over at St. Vincent’s," for no charge. In those weeks, the walls of this building were covered in missing posters.

I checked in with the barber and he told me that the building has indeed been sold, Roio's is out, but Little Tony & Igor will be staying put.

Famous Ray's: 1978

So, again, it's time to go for your last slice. By tomorrow night, The Famous Roio's, nee Ray's, will be gone after 40 years in business (minus a few months). And then who knows? Another bank? Maybe a 7-Eleven? Somehow, I doubt they'll keep the DiRienzo brothers' 1976 mosaic of Montecatini on the wall.

Famous Roio's reopens
Ray's Revived?
Famous Ray's Vanishes
Ray's After 9/11


Caleo said...

My 4 year old son goes to school across the street at P.S. 41, and we've eaten a slice there after school on several occasions. I cringe thinking about what will replace the pizzeria.
And despite what that great, old school barbershop says, I wouldn't count on them staying open much longer. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see a developer caring about the history of that place.
Go get a slice and a haircut before both are gone.

Rainbow Motel said...

This makes me terribly sad. I try to get to New York once a year or so. It never gets old. To many of us who don't live there (and probably many who do), the juxtaposition of new and old side by side is what makes the city so vital. However, I hate like hell when the old classics are scraped or scrapped for another Starbucks or McDonald's. If I wanted those I could stay home. Love this blog.

Bentobird said...

Fantastic post, and I especially liked the 1976 mosaic detail. I did a blog post a few years ago about childhood memories of the Bronx and Yonkers, including images of Gino's Pizzeria on South Broadway. It remains intact: this neighborhood has not (yet?) fallen under the developer's gaze: http://bentobird.blogspot.com/2010/03/tastes-of-past.html

Anonymous said...

I popped in when the sign went up. Talked to his nephew who ran the place after he died and asked if it would remain open and he said he didnt know.

He could have sold the building and signed a longterm lease for the pizza place and kept his uncles dream alive but I guess greed won out.


Jeremiah Moss said...

This place seems to have 9 lives. I won't be surprised if by some miracle it remains some sort of pizza place.

Anonymous said...

I watched the first tower collapse outside of Ray's. That sign will live long in my memory.

Mitch said...

To anonymous: I don't know any details, but it's not fair to call it greed when the family decides not to continue running the pizzeria. Running an establishment like that is difficult work, and it selling slices for a few bucks a pop isn't going to make a lot of money. They had their own lives and just decided not to take over someone else's dream.

Let's just hope Jeremiah is right and the cat has another life in her.

Anonymous said...

This case is interesting because of the nuances it has, often ignored by many.

The building was owned by the family who operated the pizza business, so it is not like a massive hedge fund just decided to flip it. Do we blame a family for cashing out on what is probably a major part of their net worth?

I also think there are many legitimate reasons for which descendants of a business owner wouldn't want to keep living off the trade of their parents. I wouldn't staple the "greedy" label on someone who might just have different life aspirations, goals and/or talents that their deceased parents.

Finally, barber shops are the type of business that are on decline for technological, cultural and lifestyle reasons, even absent higher rents. People just don't think of barbershops as the standard place to go to fix their facial hair, period.

laura r. said...

i think what "J" is saying is that we are losing our small service businesses. a small barber is needed in a neighborhood. so is a sandwich shop, or small diner what ever. it is the families right to retire, thats fine. its a lifestyle was are losing, thats the point.

Mike Bodayle said...

Thanks for sharing this news at your great blog. I have posted a link at my Pizza Snob blog with links to my blog about my visit to Roio's. Thanks again. I sure hate to see Manhattan keep changing.

DavidS said...

When I spoke with the nephew after Mario's death, it was obvious that he was pessimistic that he or the family could keep it going. There just wasn't enough interest in operating the business. It's a tough job if you don't have the passion.

Jake said...

Oh no! Ever since I first visited NY from my native London in 1988, Ray's has been practically my first stop every time. Grab a slice and a coffee and sit down with the Village Voice and whatever else I have grabbed on the way to immerse myself in the city. Great to then head off to the record and book shops nearby, no doubt disappearing themselves at the rate of knots.

I haven't been over since early 2011 and just discovered this great blog (thanks to a mention in the UK press) so this is real bad news. Has Jeremiah's wish that it continues in some form proved true?

I think Bentobird's comment makes an interesting point: that now the old NY is to be found in the boroughs. In recent times I have stayed with family in Union City which is so close to Manhattan despite being NJ, and it feels the chains and luxury condos have not taken over...yet.

Hope to be back over soon.