Last October, Famous Ray’s Pizza on West 11th Street in the Village shuttered after being sued for using the name “Famous Ray’s Pizza” by USA Famous Original Ray’s Licensing Corp., a rival group that owns various Ray’s pizza joints throughout the city. A sign on the pizzeria’s front window attributed the closing to a spike in rent saying, “rent too high, lost lease,” but the dispute over the name shadowed the whole affair. Now, Famous Ray’s Pizza is reopening under a new name: Famous Roio’s Pizza. The grand opening is today.
Back in 1976, not knowing that he would eventually have to rename his pizza parlor, Famous Ray’s Pizza owner Mario DiRienzo explained why his pizza parlor was called Ray’s to The New Yorker (accessed via the New York Times):
It’s a small town I come from. Although I am a Mario, in Roio I am also a Ray. The name Ray is a nickname for the family name of Di Rienzo. Every family has a nickname in my town. Someone asks, ‘Did you see Mario?’ and there are so many Marios in town you have to ask ‘Which Mario?’, so the answer is Mario Ray. And so my restaurant became The Famous Ray’s Pizza. If it were The Famous Mario’s, you would have to ask ‘Which Mario?
Famous Roio’s Pizza, a name that derives from DiRienzo’s hometown, Roio del Sangro, a small village in the Abruzzo region of Italy, should be a pretty safe bet and put the whole issue to rest. After all, there can’t be as many pizzeria owners from Roio as there are ones nicknamed Ray. Thanks to Gothamist, we remembered the classic Seinfeld episode about the proliferation of Ray’s pizzerias.