Fifty-two years and countless oven-hot pies later, Ray’s Pizza — the Ray’s Pizza — will serve its last slice on Prince Street on Sunday.
The pizzeria announced its imminent closing over the summer, but only last week settled on the hard date. The closing follows a legal dispute over rent and a lease that followed its owner’s death in 2008. The manager of Ray’s, Helen Mistretta, 79, said that while a new pizzeria seemed ready to move into the location, the future of Ray’s Pizza and the Italian restaurant next door that shares its name remained uncertain.
“I went to look at a place, but it needed too much money for renovations,” she said. “And rents are ridiculous.”
For Ms. Mistretta, a cousin of the founder, Ralph Cuomo, talking about Sunday invariably requires a handkerchief within reach. “They want to have something — I said no,” she said. No big speeches, no goodbye party. “Maybe I could have a $1.50 slice, just to get rid of the flour,” she said. “It’s too sad. I’ll be outside.”
Ray’s is perhaps best known for what it is not, having spawned a bunch of shops with the same name and no connection whatsoever to the original on 27 Prince Street. It wore its authenticity like a thick, quality coat, without fuss or flair or apology, and carried on without Mr. Cuomo when his side interests — heroin dealing and the Luchese crime family — kept him from its day-to-day operations.
Most of the mementos inside — the big clock, the pictures of celebrities — will be placed in storage. One of those faces belongs to the actor Burt Young, who called Ms. Mistretta a few weeks back when he heard the news and promised to stop by soon. Restaurant equipment will be sold at auction next week. The iconic awning outside will come down Monday.
“And that’s it,” Ms. Mistretta said with a dab to the eye.
The restaurant usually closes around 11 p.m. on Sunday, but on its last night, who knows?
“If people are here and they want to talk,” Ms. Mistretta said, “I’m not going to throw them out.”