Rice to Riches, the rice pudding shop that has been open since 2003 on Spring Street, appears to be adding a second location — its first city expansion in its two decades of business.
Signage has gone up on the Lower East Side at Ludlow and Rivington streets, in a space that carries over the business’s signature Space Age-looking interior theme. Rice to Riches — the only Manhattan business singularly devoted to rice pudding — has always been imbued with its cheeky spirit, futuristic design, and love of puns, with flavors like “Fluent in French Toast” and “Sex Drugs and Rocky Road.” On a recent visit, screens inside the Lower East Side storefront projected text that said “Rice to Riches... it’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle, inside of an enigma.” Eater has reached out to Rice to Riches for more information.
The desserts themselves are only one part of the Rice to Riches lore: Just two years into the opening, founder Peter Moceo Jr. was charged with “running a $22-million-a-year gambling ring in the New York area,” according to a New York Times report, allegedly part of “probably one of the largest gambling operations ever in Suffolk County.”
In a neighborhood with many turnovers and high-dollar storefronts, it's a feat that the original Nolita location has remained nearly unchanged since its founding — especially given that rice pudding, however delicious, is not particularly fashionable in New York.
Back in 2005, there were investigations into whether Rice to Riches itself was involved in money laundering but Moceo Jr.’s lawyer denied the allegations at the time, according to the Times. His lawyer called the entire case a fictitious byproduct of “too many people watch[ing] the Sopranos” and maintained his client’s innocence.
It was estimated by Nation’s Restaurant News that Rice to Riches sales averaged $15,000 to $18,000 a week in 2005, included in the same Times investigation; Moceo Jr. said he turned a profit for the business 18 months in. In 2021, an entire Reddit thread was created devoted to hearsay on how Rice to Riches was able to stay in business in all these years. In May 2020, Rice to Riches was approved for $41,243 in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), developed to help struggling small businesses during the pandemic, according to ProPublica’s database.
It was not immediately clear whether the ownership of the forthcoming Lower East Side Rice to Riches has remained in the Moceo Jr. family. The current website does not list a specific owner, but says it was founded by a “rice pudding architect” who “worked seven days a week toward what he dreamt would someday become a NYC landmark.”
For most of its life, Rice to Riches has stayed out of the news and has continued selling over 20 types of rice pudding. In 2010, Rice to Riches was credited with influencing the homey dessert’s appearance in Hoboken, New Jersey. It was later featured on the HBO television show, Girls. These days, the dessert spot has found a new audience with the TikTok generation.
The dessert shop ships nationwide via Goldbelly.