Famous Ray's Pizza to Reopen Under Original Management
GREENWICH VILLAGE — Famous Ray's is about to get a little more original.
The Sixth Avenue pizza shop that was slated to be taken over by a rival Ray's will soon reopen under its original 1970s management, the building's owner said.
It's the latest salvo in the Ray's pizza wars.
Famous Ray's, at 465 Sixth Ave., was one of dozens of pizza places in the city with the name Ray's. It was targeted by the rival eatery, Famous Original Ray's Pizza, last year in a lawsuit that challenged its use of the ubiquitous moniker.
After Famous Ray's shut down in October, Famous Original, which operates several pizza shops around town, swooped in to take over the space.
But Mario DiRienzo, who opened Famous Ray's in 1973 and owns the building, said a deal for the rival to run the slice shop was never sealed, despite Famous Original's announcement in December that it would move in.
"I was going to give [Famous Original Ray's] the lease, but the lease fell through," DiRienzo said, declining to elaborate.
"I'm coming back. New York needs me," he said as he showed DNAinfo how he was "breaking in" the shop's new ovens by heating them to 500 degrees weeks before they will be used full time.
Famous Original Ray's, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, wrote on its Facebook page in December that it would run the shop when Famous Ray's most recent operator, Max Brothers Pizza, packed up last October.
The rival eatery even posted menus in the Sixth Avenue shop's windows in early December.
DiRienzo, 70, a Village resident originally from Abruzzo, Italy, said he is aiming to reopen Famous Ray's in late March and will serve up free slices on the first day.
"It's good pizza, just like we did in 1973," he said.
But the name of the new restaurant remains a mystery.
In June 2011, USA Famous Original Ray's Licensing Corp. sued Max Brothers Pizza for more than $1 million for trademark infringement.
The plaintiff — which owns trademarks for the names Ray's Pizza, Famous Ray's Pizza and Famous Original Ray's Pizza — charged the pizza shop with exploiting the Ray's name and taking a bite out of the "real" Ray's "goodwill, customer base [and] market share," according to court documents.
In documents dated Nov. 9, Max Brothers agreed not to use the Ray's name or "any other confusingly similar marks or names on any of [its] … signage, advertising, menus, packaging, websites or domain names."
The city's very first Ray's Pizza, which Ralph Cuomo opened in 1959, closed in December after the Prince Street building changed hands.
As for why DiRienzo used the Ray's name in the first place, he was tightlipped.
"It's a long story," he said, refusing to say more.