Joe Rainone is the owner of Mulrooney’s Irish Sports Pub — better known as Mully’s — the oldest bar in Armory Square. He is also co-owner, along with Nick Falcone, of Benjamin’s on Franklin. He lives in Onondaga Hill.
Were you born and raised in CNY?
Yes, born in Syracuse, and lived in Syracuse all my life except for college. I didn’t know if I was going to do anything anywhere else, I knew I was going to come back. I went to Southern Connecticut State for one year, played football. Came to the realization that I wasn’t going to make it in the NFL, so I came home, went to my last three years at Oswego. I’ve always liked it here. I love Syracuse. When I was in school, all these downstate guys, especially on the lacrosse team, you know, Long Island guys, we just battled. Battled about upstate and downstate. So I was always defending CNY.
Why do you choose to stay and make your home here?
My family’s here, of course. Most of my family and all of my friends and all of the acquaintances I’ve made over the years. I kind of have an interconnection with the whole area. So it’s great.
What does your “good life” look like and how does CNY play a role?
I have a lot of friends, a lot of close friends. The opportunity to do things year-round is there. Life is interesting here; you can make it interesting if you want. I mean, it can never be boring if you choose it not to be. There’s so much to do each season. If you want to have a fun and interesting life, Central New York is a great place to be.
What do you like most about living here?
I honestly think it’s the people. The people are very nice for the most part. Most everybody I run into is nice, and that’s all strata of economically advantaged and disadvantaged people, work-a-day people and professionals. Everyone seems to be fairly nice. You don’t have too much trouble making friends. That’s what I like the best about it.
What makes CNY different from other places you’ve lived?
It's that not much different than other places. I mean everybody's basically kind of the same, you know? The thing about Central New York is it's just a nice, beautiful place to live. It’s got the four seasons of course, everyone knows that, but I mean you could have fun year-round if you want.
How would you spend a day off in the area?
Well, my favorite thing to do is get on a boat, have a couple of beers and go bother my friends that actually have camps and homes on the lake. It’s just kind of fun, you know. I don’t get to do it very often, but I really enjoy it.
Go-to place to eat?
I have two that I really like because the food’s really good and they’re reasonably priced. Apizza Regionale. Love it. Love that place, and then the other one is Doug’s Fish Fry in Skaneateles. Oh, I love it, I think it’s the best fish around. I really enjoy it and I’ve been going there for over 40 years. I just have an affinity for Doug’s.
First place you take out-of-town friends or family?
I’d bring them to Armory Square. I’ve got the two places down here; they can havefood fun. They can go to dinner, there’s great places down here for dinner.
It's summer and fall. Fall is probably my favorite, but summer is right there.
Spring is nice because you're just coming out of winter which is always kind of nice because the winter’s over. I’m not a big fan of winter only because, I don't like the snow. It’s just more work for me and I don't do winter sports. But if you do winter sports, skiing or snowmobiling or you like to ice skate, it’s great in Central New York. There’s a lot of good things to do in CNY in wintertime. I’m just not one of those guys.
Favorite way to take advantage of our beautiful outdoors?
I’ve got a trail bike; I go riding a lot. I like the water. The rivers are fun, the lakes are fun. Lake Ontario is almost like going to the ocean, a freshwater ocean. There’s just a lot of things to do in the summertime. Trail hiking, it’s just great. I like being outside.
A place or business you think is underrated or under-discovered?
There’s a restaurant I like. It's run by a great guy and his family and it’s definitely not underrated, because it’s got a pretty good reputation, I just don’t know how many people know about it because it’s kind of tucked away in Taunton Corners. The Cider Mill. It's a nice little place, you can drive right by and not even notice it. But you go in there and it's a great little place.
Favorite memory related to living in CNY?
One of my favorite things to do, and I’d bring my friends from college, it was the national rowing championships back in the day. Back when it was the Regatta before they changed it. It was kind of like Woodstock and St. Patrick's Day and spring break all rolled into one. It was wild and a lot of fun. I was younger, but yeah that was my favorite thing to do. I would tell everybody about it, “you gotta come to the regatta.” It’s just unbelievable, so much fun. It was wild but nice, there was hardly ever trouble. It was just wild back in the day. It was the end of the spring semester and there were kids from all these different colleges, all the schools that were represented in the actual regatta. It was just a lot of energy, it was great, I really enjoyed it.
How would you describe CNY in a few words?
It’s beautiful. The rolling hills, the lakes, the trees in the fall. It’s just a beautiful place to live. And kind. Most of the people are kind, I think. It’s hard to describe.
What do you think we take for granted here?
Well, the easy going-ness of it, if that's the right way to put it. It's easy-going here and it's so easy-going sometimes that you kind of just don't think about it. Then you travel and you see how other cities, and other locations, other locales [are], it’s like you almost can't wait to come back here. So that's what it is, to me. I’ve traveled, but I can't wait to get home. I don’t know if everybody feels like that, but I just I like knowing where I am and who I know and who I can count on, how to get places and here and there.
Best way to get to know the area better?
I talk to people. It’s easy to chat somebody up if you’re out in a bar or restaurant. They’ll gladly tell you where to go or what to try. Just have a conversation, because like I said, people are friendly and kind, and they’ll help you out.
Myth about CNY or Upstate you’d like to dispel?
I don’t think there’s anything to dispel. I think when people come here, they really like it, they enjoy it.
What do you think people outside of CNY should know about living here?
It's just a great place to live. It's not that expensive and there's a lot of things to do year-round. The very important thing is there's no natural disasters. And if you like snow and you do things in the snow, you’ve got four full seasons to take advantage of. So, hey, it’s a great place to live.
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