IS FORMER mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino getting into the restaurant business in Florida? GossipExtra.com, run by Miami Herald contributor/former New York Daily News reporter Jose Lambiet, seems to think so.
Lambiet reports that Merlino and investors will open a restaurant "in the heart of Boca Raton," which Merlino has called home since completing his 14-year prison stint for racketeering. Lambiet quotes business broker Daron Tersakyan, who was not familiar with Merlino but confirmed that investors "want to set up a high-end, South Philadelphia-style Italian place."
Maybe Merlino and Co. can get advice from Steve Martorano, the celeb chef and nephew of wiseguy Raymond "Long John" Martorano, who, after years of South Florida cooking, opened a namesake restaurant at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City.
I reached out to Eddie Jacobs, Merlino's attorney, about the possible venture. "I've heard tons of rumors about my client, but it's got rumor status, nothing more," Jacobs said.
When asked about the restaurant deal, Christopher Warren, Merlino's former attorney, said he knew nothing about it.
"But it wouldn't surprise me, because I know he was thinking about doing that," said Warren, who served as Merlino's co-counsel in a 2004 murder trial in New Jersey. Merlino was acquitted.
Merlino also told as much to former Inquirer reporter George Anastasia in an interview on BigTrial.net, lamenting that he could not find the proper rolls in South Florida.
Jerry Blavat, who has known Merlino since he was a kid, hadn't heard about the venture but thinks it's an excellent idea. "He's a smart, bright kid and I think he'll do really well," Blavat said.
Lambiet didn't mention a name for the spot and there's no listing under Merlino's name in the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations, so let's give him a helping hand. What do you think Merlino should name his eatery? Send your best response to email@example.com with the subject line "Merlino eatery" and I'll print my favorites in the paper tomorrow.
Additional reporting credit goes out to my colleague/buddy William Bender.
Utleys lease condo
Want to live in Chase Utley's condo? Have $17,500 a month to pony up? You're in luck. The four-bedroom, 4 1/2-bath home in the Ayer Condominiums, on Washington Square, is up for lease courtesy of Melanie Stecura, at Kurfiss Sotheby's International Realty.
The Utleys put their condo up on the market back in October, asking $4.3 million. But no buyers meant that they're going the landlord route. According to the Center City Team, the condo was purchased for $4.1 million in 2008.
Florendo back to Vegas
NBC10 meteorologist Tedd Florendo is returning to Las Vegas after joining the station in September of last year. He will report back to the CBS affiliate from where he came.
Florendo said he is leaving the market to take care of his ailing mother, who lives on the West Coast. It's important to him to be near her during this time.
"NBC10 has always taken care of me. It saddens me that I have to leave such an incredible, credible and professional news team," Florendo said. "But family has to come first. I've made some great friends at NBC10 and I will never forget them."
Florendo is one of the many newsroom departures lately. Bob Kelly left CBS3 last week, along with Elizabeth Hur. Kacie McDonnell left Fox 29 last month to be with her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Aaron Murray.
Actor David Morse - the star of the Philly-set "Hack," along with top billing on "St. Elsewhere" and the Philly-shot "Twelve Monkeys" - hopped onstage during the inaugural Five Dollar Comedy Week for a performance of the "Late Night Night" show hosted by producer Kate Banford on Thursday night.
"He's a great man, hardworking, open-minded and ultra tall," Banford said. "It was really fun having him on the show." Five Dollar Comedy Week is over, but it employed more than 200 comedians throughout last week. Banford promises a return.
Banford met Morse while working on "McCanick," the Philly-shot crime thriller starring Morse, with "Under the Dome" star and Bucks County native Mike Vogel and "Glee" star Cory Monteith, who died from a drug overdose last year.
That wasn't the only time you'll be able to see Morse on Philly stages. He'll perform in FringeArts' "White Rabbit Red Rabbit" a true-story play written by a young Iranian who refused military service. Morse, like the other performers (including Brian Anthony Wilson, of "The Wire," and WHYY's Jennifer Lynn), will read the play for the first and last time while onstage. For more info, go to fringearts.com.
OUT AND ABOUT
* Chaka Fattah Jr., the embattled son of embattled U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, was seen at the Cherry Hill Capital Grille (2000 Route 38, Suite 1152) on Sunday night, dining with a mystery blonde. Fattah is current facing federal charges on tax evasion and is out on $50,000 bail.
On Twitter: @PhillyGossipDN