The Pizza Snob had been on such a roll lately (five “five-slice” ratings in a row) that I needed a reality check to see if I had lost my pizza-objectivity. So after a recent late night Manhattan adventure, I moseyed over to the Lower East Side to revisit a place that I recall disappointing me back in my pre-Snob days. My visit to this branch of Famous Original Ray’s Pizza became a sad reminder that you can actually get a bad slice of pizza in New York City.
Prior to my visit, I was not aware that this Ray’s location was connected to a chain of eight: two “up” (town), three “mid,” two “down” and one out on Long Island. I previously tasted at the one near Times Square which somehow was not as dismal as this one turned out to be.
This part of the Lower East Side was for me a flashback to the City in the 70s. The area just doesn’t present itself as safe and clean as the rest of currently revitalized Manhattan. Likewise, this Ray’s location is not quite the place you’d take your date to after the prom, or perhaps any time for that matter.
It was close to midnight when I found my way to the open air Ray’s storefront on the south side of Houston Street. The place looked like it had been through a long day, and that it was time for the cleaning crew to arrive. While the seating area was empty, I unfortunately managed to arrive just behind a bunch of late-night revelers and a trio of New York City’s Finest on break. I was surprised to find that the later didn’t have better pizza-sense, but at least their presence made me feel safer.
When I got a look at the plain cheese slice ($2.35) that would be mine, I knew I was in for a big letdown. The slice had a dreaded pale white cheese look, and I anticipated it being served dead on arrival. I doubted that anything could bring this sad-looking slice back to life. Despite a lengthy reheat in the pizza oven, it still came out cold on the inside. The real problems though were its bland taste and inferior ingredients. It was also way heavy on the dough, and getting all the way through to the end crust turned out to be a real chore. Dull and lifeless sums this one up.
Ray’s is into offering a lot of weird slices, and a lifeless basic cheese slice can’t be resurrected by simply covering it up with non-traditional toppings. With the real original Ray’s gone, I guess the name Ray’s in NYC just doesn’t mean much anymore to the pizza world. I will chalk this up as the worst slice I have ever had in Manhattan for more than a dollar.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ** Why Did I Waste Those Calories?
Famous Original Ray’s Pizza
195 E. Houston Street (at Orchard Street)
New York, NY 10002