Stu Bykofsky has been a columnist with the Daily News since 1987. He has been features editor, theater critic, TV critic, and gossip columnist. He supports animal causes, civil rights, and fair play, and opposes political correctness, bicycles on the sidewalk, and most other forms of selfishness and stupidity.
Before he was the maître d’ for Merlino’s in Boca Raton, Joey Merlino owned the Avenue Café, a cigar and espresso shop on Passyunk Avenue. Merlino said he’d use his mother’s recipes in the Florida restaurant, which closed in 2016. (Two of the recipes, someone joked, were Mobster Lobster and Broken Leg of Lamb.)
A decent athlete, Merlino was the starting pitcher for his South Philly softball team, unofficially known as Skinny Joey Merlino’s All-Stars.
There have been at least a half-dozen attempts on Merlino’s life, including one in August 1993 that left him with bullet wounds in one leg. When informed that a rival mobster had put a $500,000 bounty on him, Merlino quipped: “For $500,000, I’d shoot myself.”
The news media have been extraordinarily respectful in never writing about his grown daughters, Nicolette and Sophia, and in rarely mentioning his devoted wife, Deborah, with whom he celebrated his 21st wedding anniversary in March.
Merlino likes rap music. In 1998, he attended the 25th birthday party of rapper Kurupt, formerly of Snoop Dog’s Dog Pound, and was called to the stage by Tommy Hill, leader of the North Philly rap group R.A.M. Squad. The party ended early when gunfire broke out, but Merlino had no part in that.