176 Mulberry Street
On The POPE of GREENWICH VILLAGE
At MARE CHIARO
Owner TONY TENNIERELLO Tends Bar
Maybe you never noticed Mare Chiaro on Mulberry Street. It was the bar – the only bar – on Mulberry Street. In fact, it was one of the only two bars I know of in Little Italy. Since I moved to New York, it had been one of the last places you could get a glimpse of what Little Italy had been like before it became “Little Italy” the tourist theme park. I don’t know when Mare Chiaro opened, but I believe ownership had been in the same family for at least a couple of generations. In a fashion typical of an old family business, it made no efficient use of its space or location. It was just the way it was.
A very large, high-ceilinged, rectangular room, roughly divided into two areas by a wooden partition, it boasted a solid old bar, illogically stretched across the narrow end of the room nearest the door. This meant that if there was any kind of crowd – and to be honest, there rarely was – it would be clustered around the short bar, leaving the rest of the space pretty much empty. It was a cigar-smokers bar, when that was permitted, with a sweet-smelling fug. Most of the male customers were no strangers to hair cream and pomades. The juke box played not only Frank Sinatra, but also all those Italian singers you’ve never heard of who had once hoped to be Frank Sinatra.
A large painting of the bar in its heyday, featuring the then owner, hung on the wall opposite the door, alongside a full-length portrait of a gentleman I believe was his father.