I just love that moment in the 2003 movie Elf where Santa Claus (Ed Asner) is telling Buddy the over-sized elf (Will Ferrell) what New York is like and gives him the three things he should know. He says: “First off, you see gum on the street, leave it there. It isn’t free candy. Second, there are, like, thirty Ray’s Pizzas. They all claim to be the original. But the real one’s on 11th. And if you see a sign that says “Peep Show”, that doesn’t mean that they’re letting you look at the new toys before Christmas.”
Actually, according to Wikipedia, in 2011 there were at least 49 pizza places in New York City with some derivation of the name Ray’s, working with various combinations of names using the terms “original” and “famous.” (Watch this classic Seinfeld scene about all this confusion over the Ray’s pizza names.)
Well, Santa was right as the original did sit on the Northwest corner of 11th Street and 6th Avenue. And after some maneuvers and legal-wrangling that I won’t get into here, the original was gone for awhile but the real Ray’s is now just recently back in place at this location under its original owner. And with remnants of the old “Ray’s” sign still slightly visible, the awning now dubs the place “The Famous Roio’s Pizza,” with a small sign in the window also proclaiming a reopening by its original owner.
Over the years, I had visited some of the Ray’s in NYC, but only last week, on one of my first assignments as The Pizza Snob, for the first time ever, I knowingly ventured to grab a slice at the original Ray’s. My internet research led me to the recently-christened Roio’s. Upon entering, I immediately was impressed with the overall cleanliness and spaciousness of the joint as it sparkled and offered plenty of room to sit. I scanned the wall noticing that a cheese slice was at the current NYC market rate of $2.75 but was also surprised to see the sign that said “Well done slices or pies by request only.” They must have known I was coming so I plunked down my cash for a well-done cheese slice.
I was instantly thrilled with what I received as the crust was cooked just perfect and had a nice delicate crunch to it. Likewise the sauce was just right and required no doctoring. The slice however did carry a bit more cheese than to my liking and I’d say that this was a borderline “travelling slice” that would require a few napkins if you wanted to walk with it. Nonetheless, it was a great slice worth seeking out and the Snob is proud to award the Roio’s cheese slice with its first four-star “Near Perfection” award.
I should also note that my brother who was with me did two slices – one the way God intended pizza to be eaten (cheese-only) and the other with the otherwise allowable single-topping of sausage. Much to his surprise, they melted some extra cheese on top of the sausage which he found delightful. It was a rather filling lunch for him however and after eating he was ready for a nap. Me however, I stuck to the single slice as I had another stop in mind. More on my NYC trip later.
PIZZA SNOB RATING **** Near Perfection
Famous Roio’s Pizza
465 Ave of the Americas
New York, NY 10011
See our update on The Famous Roio’s here.