The culinary gentrification of the San Gennaro Festival isn’t the only change to befall Little Italy this month: Ray’s Pizza, the oldest (and first) Ray’s in the city, will likely end its 52 years at 27 Prince Street after the festival wraps up on September 25.
The New York Times reports that the closure is the result of a convoluted, lawsuit-laden real estate battle between heirs of Ralph Cuomo, the original owner of Ray’s 27 Prince Street. Cuomo opened his pizzeria in 1959 and called it Ray’s because, as he told the Times in a 1991 interview, “Ralph might have sounded, I don’t know, maybe too feminine.”
Cuomo went on to briefly own second location near East 59th Street; its new owner kept the name Ray’s, and since then a multitude of Ray’s, many bearing the qualifiers “Original” or “Famous,” have opened across the city. Cuomo, a reputed member of the Lucchese crime family, was arrested on more than one occasion on charges of selling heroin, and spent time in prison before his death in 2008. His pizzeria is now run by a cousin, Helen Mistretta, who told the Times that they’re looking for a new location for the business.