Jose Lambiet

Ex mob boss in the pasta business; Paulina Rubio settles out of court; TV reporter’s real life drama

Retired mob boss “Skinny” Joey Merlino, who served 14 years in prison for racketeering, and a group of investors are set to open a restaurant in the heart of Boca Raton.

The ex-Philadelphia organized crime head, now 52 and a Boca resident since 2012, was the subject of a Miami Herald profile headlined “The Mobster Next Door.” He is scheduled to get off his three-year supervised release next month.

And obviously, Merlino now wants to hit the ground running after swearing off a life of crime because, he said in a recent interview, “too many rats” surround him.

Two real estate sources who asked not to be named told Gossip Extra that Merlino will be heavily involved in a restaurant that’s supposed to open at 39 SE First Ave. by year’s end.

A three-year deal has been inked with the property owner, a company linked to controversial Palm Beach County landowner Jim Batmasian.

Daron Tersakyan, who worked on the contract for Batmasian, said he isn’t familiar with Merlino’s name but confirmed the restaurant will be “a high-end, South Philadelphia-style Italian place.”

Lewis Kasman, who also retired in the Boca area after working for famed New York crime boss John Gotti then turning FBI informant, said he’s heard the buzz about the venture.

“I can’t confirm nor deny that Joey is opening his own place, but I’ve been questioned about it by law enforcement over the past week,” Kasman said.

Because he is a convicted felon, Merlino cannot obtain a liquor license under his own name.

But in his latest interview with a reporter last year, Merlino said he was looking for investment opportunities. Merlino talked to Philly mob writer George Anastasia about opening restaurants, cafes, a Philly cheese steak shop and a cigar bar.

Rubio settles

Those who’d love to see Mexican singer Paulina Rubio get worked up in court won’t get much satisfaction.

The volatile singer settled the latest lawsuit in which she was named a defendant, according to papers filed with the Miami-Dade County court system Thursday.

The singer of Boys will be Boys was sued by Miami businessman Carlos Gutierrez for not showing up at a heavily promoted concert in Colombia in August 2010.

Gutierrez claimed he lost hundreds of thousands when Rubio allegedly missed her flight from Miami and the show was canceled.

No one’s talking about the settlement; both Gutierrez and Rubio agreed to keep it confidential.

In 2013, Rubio and ex-husband Nicolas Vallego Nagera had a noisy court standoff during a child-custody hearing in Miami.

tv news

New WSVN-Channel 7 reporter Ashley Morrison’s estranged husband was in court in Connecticut this week for a hearing about allegations that he called her 121 times at home and on her cell during Memorial Day weekend, at a time when she had a no-contact order against him.

According to the New York Post, Morrison’s husband Rob Morrison, who resigned last year from the prime-time anchor’s desk at New York’s WCBS-Channel 2, was told he’ll have to stand trial for phone harassment later this year.

He was arrested after Morrison, who was described by cops as shaking like a leaf, told police she was worried he’d kill her.

It was his fourth arrest in domestic incidents involving her since 2009.

Ashley Morrison, previously an anchor on CBS’ MoneyWatch, moved to South Florida this summer. She started at WSVN on Aug. 8, according to SFLTV.com.

She didn’t reply to phone calls and emails requesting comment.

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