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Travel Feature

The Legend of Ray's Pizza

Sometimes historic events go unnoticed when they happen. In the late 1790s, some New Yorkers The first Ray's Pizza on Prince St.began trading shares of stock under a tree on Wall Street in New York for the first time, no one gave it so much as a glance. The same thing happened half a century ago, when a guy named Ralph Cuomo -- Ray to his friends -- opened a pizza joint on at 27 Prince Street in New York City. Few noticed at the time, but a trend had started that would end up as a treasured New York tradition and a regional joke. Everyone's heard of Ray's Pizza.

For the first few years of it's existence, Ray's was just a neighborhood pizzeria (with mafia connections, Cuomo would spend time in jail, but that's a different story). It was popular, and he opened a second one a couple of years later. But Ray was busy with his other business (for which he was sent to the pokey), and he sold the uptown one, Famous Original Ray's Pizza at 1233 1st Ave at 66th St., to Rosolino Mangano in 1964.

Mangano claims to have made the name Ray famous by offering several different types of pizza in a glass display case. But that isn't true, another guy made the name famous. His name was Mario Di Rienzo, who was, in 1973, a famous chef. In that year, he had a mission: create the best damn pizza on the planet, and that year, he opened his emporium. He called it Ray's Pizza. Why?

Many years ago, in the New York Times, DiRienzo, who was originally from the Italian Village of Roio del Sangro in Abruzzi, explained the derivation this way: "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?'"

Also in 1973, a certain Joe Barri bought the Ray's Pizza on 76th Street and Third Avenue, (later, he would change it to Ray Barri's) this was decent pizza too, but Di Rienzo's was amazing. It had almost but not quite enough cheese to fall on your lap when you picked up a slice. Word went out and it became instantly legendary. The Ray's on 11th St.

But for the "in crowd," The Famous Ray's on 11th Street was the only place to get a slice -- there was so much cheese on it that a slice couldn't be cooked hard enough to make firm enough crust to pick it up. It had to be eaten with a fork.

Mangano decided to expand, so did Barri. Other people started renaming their places "Ray's" to cash in on the hoopla. Soon, you had Ray's Pizzas on almost every block: Famous Ray's, Original Ray's, Famous Original Ray's, Original Famous Ray's, "Fred's Ray's" even a Not Ray's in Brooklyn. There were hundreds. At one point, Mangano owned 25 Famous Original Ray's Pizza establishments, and his was just a tiny fraction of the "chain."

By 1990, "Ray's Pizza" was New York's official in-joke. The quality varied from wonderful to lousy, and at this point, one might wonder, "Why weren't there any lawsuits over copyright and trademarks and such?" 

Gary Esposito, who owned five "Original Ray's" wondered that too, and in the middle '80s, he located "Ray" Cuomo, who by now was out of jail. So, they decided to get together with some independent Ray's proprietors, and actually retrofit a genuine franchise chain.

Only Rosalino didn't want to. For five years, he frustrated every attempt to trademark the name and its variations. Then in 1991, he gave in and joined, going around in his limo telling proprietors to buy a franchise or get sued. Sometime in the last year or two, it is now noticeable that a number of "Famous Original" or "Original Famous" pizza places with the word "Ray's" whited out.

According to noted pizza authority Scott Weiner, there seems to be about 40 pizzerias with the name Ray's left in New York City, nine of which are part of the official chain. The one on 11th Street was sold in the '90s and resold several times, and the quality has gone down quite a bit but the ambiance is still there. As for the very first one on Prince Street -- they 're celebrating half a century in business. Perhaps they should get a plaque or something.

Ray's Pizza
27 Prince St.
New York City 10013

Famous Original Ray's Pizza
1233 1st Ave
at 66th St.
New York City 100

Ray Barri's Pizza
76th St. and Third Ave.
New York City

The Famous Ray's
11th St.
New York

Park City in January

During that last week of January, Park City, Utah, plays host to one of the world's most talked about events, The Sundance Film Festival, and the indie film cavalcade kicks in. When Sundance and the full battalion of filmmakers, fans, industry professional and press descend on this small town (a mere 7000 permanent residents) with its beautiful scenery and a number of picturesque neighborhoods, prices of everything quadruple and accommodations are tight. 

Park City is proud of its heritage as part of the Old West. Founded in 1870, it was a mining town that supported as much as 20 saloons. That was something that the theocratic government of the Utah territory didn’t approve of--given its Mormon nature. After several fires, accidents, and the tapping out of the mineral veins proved to be the near-death of Park City, and it was listed as a ghost town by 1950.

Around that time, a ski resort began to grow among the ruins, and by the early 1970s, the place had become a respectable suburban resort. The Film Festivals began arriving in the early 1980s, and the rest is history.

Park City was chosen as the host for the festival because Oscar winning director Sydney Pollack wanted to go skiing while an earlier incarnation of the festival was going on. At that point, superstar actor/director Robert Redford had nothing to do with it. But once he stepped in and took over the festival, he also reshaped the town.

The Lay of the Land
Pretty much all the non-film viewing activities take place on Main Street, where there are lots of after parties, and other industry activities. other kinds of events, street scenes and photo-ops take place. The major restaurants are there and The Kimball Arts Center (638 Park Ave. at the corner of Main St. and Heber Ave.) -- Sundance House during the fest -- is where those with credentials can get warm and civilians can freeze while gawking at the stars coming in and out.

There are nine venues:

Eccles Theater
(1270 Seats)

Racquet Club Theatre
(602 Seats)

Holiday Village Multiplex
(four theaters with 166 seats each)

Library Center Theatre
(448 seats)

Prospector Square Theatre
(332 Seats)

The Egyptian Theatre
(266 Seats)

the Redstone Cinemas
(185 seats)

The free shuttle bus stops at each one.

That's right, there's a free shuttle bus that pretty much goes everywhere you need to go, which means that you're going to spend a lot of time waiting at various bus stops freezing your butt off. However, that's actually better than driving, because there's very little parking near the venues.

Also, the Holiday Village and Prospector Square Theaters are located in strip malls, so there are a number of fast food places there.

Check the listings in the program.

George S. Eccles  & Dolores Dare Center For the Performing Arts

1750 Kearns Blvd
Park City, UT 84060 

(435) 655-3114

Egyptian Theatre 
333 Main St
Park City, UT 84060 
(435) 645-0671

Holiday Village Cinemas

1776 Park Ave 

Park City, UT 84060
(800) 326-3264

Library Center Theatre 

1225 Park Ave.
Park City, UT 84060

Prospector Square Theatre

2200 Sidewinder Dr. 

Park City, UT 84060 

(888) 283-3030 or (435) 658-3030

Racquet Club Theatre 

1200 Little Kate Rd. 

Park City, UT 84060

Redstone 8 Cinemas

6030 Market St At Ste 120

Park City, UT 84098  

(435) 575-0221

Temple Theatre

3700 North Brookside Ct.

Park City, UT 84098 

(435) 649-2276 

How to get there:
If you don't have or rent a car, there are a number of shared taxi services at Salt Lake City Airport (SLC) that take you to Park City.

Here are two officially authorized companies:

Express Shuttle

(800) 397-0773

(801) 596-1600 (in Salt Lake City)

(435) 658-3444 (in Park City)

Miderra Lifestyle Management

(866) 374-8824

By the middle of December, we've reached the point of no return as to hotels, however, if you try Craig'sList, you might be able to get some floor space at the many condos in the area. But these are the major hotels and lodges.

The Eating Establishments
As to restaurants and the like, we rarely have enough time to eat anything beyond a hot dog or popcorn at one of the venues. However, the Sundance website recommends the following:

Grub Steak

2200 Sidewinder Drive

Reservations: (435) 649-8060


7600 Royal Street

Reservations: (435) 645-6715

Reef Kitchen

710 Main Street

Reservations: (435) 658-0323

Royal Street Café

7600 Royal Street

Reservations: (435) 645-6628

Seafood Buffet at Deer Valley

1375 Deer Valley Drive

Reservations: (435) 645-6632


333 Main Street, 2nd floor

Reservations: (435) 645-7253

Wasatch Bagel

1300 Snow Creek

Reservations: (435) 645-7778

The Map

NYC - Inflation: Thanksgiving Variety

He flew in to join me for the holiday, remarking how strange it was that so few people seemed to be flying on this busiest travel day of the year: The day before Thanksgiving. Just as Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, immediately following a table laden with pies and feathers, berries and jelly, casseroles and native produce. Why was there not airport pandemonium?
It was clear what was happening. It wasn’t that fewer people were traveling. Millions were still hopping up to relatives and loved ones anywhere-but-nearby. They were just dialing down their travel plans. The announcers on newscasts confirmed my suspicions -- that people had traded planes for buses, cars and trains rather than the higher-ticket (if arguably faster) birds with wings of metal.
And if they arrived here in the Big Apple in large numbers -- while at a medical symposium, I noted over 1,000 cute, pony-tailed cheerleaders (of both genders) domiciling at the Hilton, here to dance and flounce at the time-honored Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, an annual tribute to cartoon characters and beloved memorial mascots, gathered from many states--they usually made their way to the West Side for the Night Before the parade "inflation ritual." The police cordon; the civilians swarm.
We  walked uptown to the American Museum of Natural History, where flotillas of floats were laid out under tent-sized sturdy netting as these characters from Walt Disney, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Schulz and Pixar Studios slowly gained girth and hefted height. Dwarfed armies of Macy’s crews inflated these beloved characters as the evening wore on.
The floats are inflated on West 77th Street, thronged with masses of parents and pint-sized midgety kids wondering why they were being dragged along in a steady mist below the sightlines of what was transpiring over their parents’ heads; and on West 81st Street, parenthesizing the magisterial towers of the stone museum where once Margaret Mead held peremptory sway.
Befriending a genial and cool police officer, we were able to sweet-talk our way across the cordon onto the best viewing side, uptown West 81st Street, assuring all constables that we had ‘invitations’ to parties on the block.
Time was, this hallowed inflation went on all night, starting quite late, and proceeding until dawn. Some of us had had real parties then, before those friends had moved to cheaper digs, and had gaily run down from our hosts to get an egg-salad bagel or a lox-cheese croissant being handed out to anyone foolhardy and insomniac enough to still hang around in the darkest of the wee hours across from Central Park.
That’s all changed. The Macy’s people said they now began to blow up the thick PVC floats beginning before 2 pm on Wednesday, the better to have delighted children ooh and aah as they caught a glimpse of Snoopy, macho Popeye or brave Buzz Lightyear.
Halloween (at least in the canyons of New York) now officially belongs to gender-bending adults in contrived masquerade and finery. Thanksgiving’s parade still belongs, happily, to the kidlets. No snarky sophistication welcome, thank you very much.
Though the merchants along the length of the three-sided block all remained open late, not many were buying—except in the spiffy UGG boot shop next to the Reebok Sports Club emporium of beautiful people determined to remain beautiful. Cafes and eateries were pretty packed for some 10 blocks around, among them, us, consuming Hunan Cottage fare; but regular merchandise was not flying off shelves, as tired kids clung to adult hands, and prams with many sets of twins or two-sies trundled along into the back of people’s knees.
As extra inducement to wonder, backdrop to the proceedings of huffing and puffing machinery dutifully inflating two-story tall balloons, The Hayden Planetarium is magically lit with an ethereal red light inside the huge plate glass wall facing Columbus Avenue, and a glowing, eerie azure on the side facing West 81st.
Clever entrepreneurs in tacky costumes hawked photos, posing with the kiddies for a few dollars a throw, annoying purists. But evading arrest by the indulgent police. Cotton candy in tight Saran Wrap swaddling still repelled grown-up eaters of real food. Junk food was squeezed in many smeared, pudgy fingers.
From the thousands of kids and parents from New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and upstate NY, you couldn’t tell there was a recession in the land.
Even so, we knew from even a few bantering exchanges with the night’s bright, brief visitors that this was surely the only inflation these hard-working parents were remotely fond of.

Bermuda Blues

Bermuda is supposed to be a friendly place, and having been there before a number of times, I thought that going through customs would be a piece of cake. I only was going to be there only one day and two nights, on the JetBlue “All you can eat” pass. Tourism is the island’s bread and butter after offshore banking, so why would they want to make enemies?

But no, the guy guarding the exit told me to go to the inspection line. This was really strange as I had only a small backpack with swim trunks, and a single change of clothes. So, behind a bunch of people who had brought the entire contents of their houses, I waited…and waited…and waited. Several other people complained as well as the customs inspectors were apparently taking a break.

Finally, I got to the front of the line. The woman looked at me with disdain and said:

“Are you carrying illegal drugs and other contraband? “

“No,” I replied.

“All right, you can go.”

An hour for that?!? I fumed to myself. I could have gone, unpacked and left my hotel already, and headed off to Hamilton, the only city on the island, and bought souvenirs, but Noooo!!!

Then there was the interminable wait for the bus. Usually Bermuda has one of the best bus systems in what was once the British Empire, but today, well, by the time I got to Aunt Nea’s Hotel in St. George, the cheapest on the island that’s allowed to advertise. I was fuming.

There were two guys sitting on the front porch, who informed me that Aunt Nea wasn’t there, and that wasn’t surprising since she is fictional, but the person who owned the place wasn’t there either and had left everything for me in an envelope behind the front desk. (This is why this otherwise delightful hotel isn’t expensive.)

While I was heading to my room, I heard one of the men on the veranda tell the other about a huge to-do over on St. David’s Island. The Bank of Bermuda was having its annual picnic.

"Ah Soooooooooh!!!!," I thought to myself, I will crash it and have dinner on the Bermuda government’s dime… Revenge!!!!!!

Bermuda isn’t an island; it’s an archipelago--a series of small to tiny islands that look from the sky like a fishhook. St. David’s is the one with the international airport, and a large public beach. When I got to Clearwater Beach, where the thing was at, it was beginning to get late. True, there were plenty of people there, but they looked satiated and the people giving away sodas were demanding tickets? What to do?

I wandered around slightly dejected at the idea of having my revenge foiled in such a manner, but what could I do? I went to the tent where there was a huge buffet just sitting there. I was stopped.

I explained that I was a poor hungry tourist who had heard of the good works of the wonderful and charitable Bank of Bermuda, which was partly owned by HSBC, and he told me that he’d have to ask his supervisor, a young girl no more than 16, or so she looked. She gave me a dirty look but then said that I could come in as long as I was unobtrusive about it. I promised to be so and then went to the buffet, where I began filling my plate with hamburgers, hotdogs and Mac and Cheese, (Bermuda doesn’t have particularly exotic food) and finding a ticket on the floor, I got myself a coke. I thanked the guards, and then stuffed myself. Revenge was mine!!!! Ha-Ha!!! And it turn out to be a grand time.

The reason I went to Bermuda was three-fold. JetBlue had this amazing $600 All-You-Can-Fly fare, with which you can go to as many places as possible within the space of a month (a one time only thing, dammit!). Then there’s the annual film festival, which I had missed. I wanted to see the venue, which is at a place that nobody could locate for some reason. And finally, there’s this place called The Nine Beaches Resort that has been sending me emails, and,  since I couldn’t afford it, I wanted to take a bit of a look at it.

I looked, it was nice--mostly a bunch of bungalows--but that was it. It was just my luck that it was raining most of the day, and I had to run to catch a bus which, fortunately, stopped nearby the entrance.

The next morning, I flew home. There’s not much to do in Bermuda without spending a ton of money. I guess that’s why they have a film festival. The Bermuda International Film Festival ( And that a whole nother story.

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