Ray’s simple $3 cheese pizza is better than pretentious pies

The famous original Ray’s pizza still reigns no matter what the pizza snobs say. As its crown-shaped logo proclaims, the local chain, which has three locations in Manhattan, is the king of pies, the imperator of all New York street food.

The Big Apple is full of vaunted pizzerias, like Una Pizza Napoletana, which just reopened amid a blizzard of hype on the Lower East Side after a two-year hiatus. “Cheese foodies” and celebrities swarmed the Orchard Street spot when it launched, Page Six reported.

I wonder how many jumped for a $750 tasting menu for four. A pizza tasting menu? Well, Una Pizza Napoletana’s dough is “naturally leavened!”

For me, good old Ray’s reigns supreme. Its gooey, cheesy, messy $3.50 slice pokes fun at more expensive and pretentious mutations.

Ray’s has three locations in Manhattan, including one in Times Square.
Zach Feldman / New York Post

Of course, it’s the butt of jokes. “Seinfeld” and “Elf” ridiculed his convoluted history and the dozens of joints that hijacked the “Ray’s” name, all pretending to be the real thing.

And yes, I almost feel guilty for professing my love for Ray’s “regular cheese” slice. Its ingredients are culinary blasphemy in today’s all-artisanal environment. Dough doesn’t claim to be naturally risen for three weeks in a temperature-controlled room with Mozart and nature documentaries. The sauce is not made from jet-set tomatoes with homes in California and southern Italy. Parmesan — the only cheese in the entry-level slice — doesn’t have a compelling origin story, nor does the basic olive oil and garlic that round out the simple ingredient list. . (I have no use for peppers, pepperoni or pineapple, thanks).

The primitive pie is not baked over charcoal or wood, but baked in a commercial gas oven. Ray’s has no affiliation with institutions of higher pizza learning such as the Pizza Academy Foundation, “the elite Italian governing body teaching the 300-year-old art of Neapolitan pizza making,” to which Kesté boasts of being affiliated.

Ray’s crust is made for walking – the perfect New York street food.
Zach Feldman / New York Post

But nothing gives me as much pleasure as a hot slice of Ray’s dripping from the oven. I’ve never liked the Sicilian style square article which is often a snack exercise. I don’t need Paulie Gee’s hot honey drizzle, Two Boots’ cornmeal crusted bottom or Artichoke Basille’s artichoke dip disguised as pizza.

My first bite of Ray’s Triangle Slice is a taste of heaven. Its elements, which I spice up with light pinches of no-name garlic powder, oregano and red pepper flakes, merge into an explosion of orgasmic pleasure every time. No other mouthfeel compares. The crust is made for walking – soft to bend after the first bites but just firm enough not to drop it all on the pavement. It’s a far superior street food to squishy boiled hot dogs or tacos that turn into cardboard once you’ve extracted everything worth eating.

Plain cheese slices at Ray’s.
Zach Feldman / New York Post

My Ray’s delight might offend “serious” pie lovers. They want “authenticity” even though Italians constantly argue about what that means. They want ovens made from volcanic salt, sand and rock from Mount Vesuvius. They require upstate 00 grade “craft” flour; tomatoes from San Marzano; and cheeses from the most remote corners of Italy.

They hunt all mutant forms – deep “Chicago-style”, caramel Detroit-style, Midwestern (whatever that means) and even Canadian (maple syrup, if you ask).

And fancy optics! Discover the blistered crust of Motorino! See Rubirosa’s spooky green basilisk squiggle they call “Tie-Dye!”

It’s spring. It’s Ray’s season. I can’t wait for my next bubbling, crackling slice to be devoured on the teeming sidewalk. And phooey about pretentious pretenders to the throne.

Cuozzo touts Ray’s above more pretentious pizzerias.
Billy Becerra/New York Post

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