IS JOEY MERLINO still the head of the Philadelphia mob?
He says no. The feds aren't so sure.
But few can argue with this: He's probably the only maître d' in the country who can do a four-month prison stint and still have a job waiting for him when he returns.
Merlino, 52, must report to a federal detention center in Miami at 2 p.m. Monday. A Philadelphia judge ruled in October that he had violated the terms of his supervised release on a 2001 racketeering conviction by associating with an old mob pal at a cigar bar in June.
"I'll be in great shape for when I get out on Cinco de Mayo," Merlino texted to the Daily News this afternoon.
Merlino, who has been living in Florida since he was released from prison in 2011, has reinvented himself as a maître d' at an upscale Italian restaurant in Boca Raton that carries his name. It opened in November and serves dishes inspired by his mother. The cocktail menu includes the "South Philly Beet Down" and "Olde City Fashioned."
Federal prosecutors say the man once known as "Skinny Joey" still has strong ties to the Philly mob, but Merlino insists he's gone legit. Merlino's Instagram page is full of pictures of him living the good life in Florida with his family. Even Jerry Blavat makes an appearance.
Merlino's spirits seemed high today, and he managed to give his restaurant a plug, despite the looming prison sentence.
"I can't wait to go," he texted. "I need a vacation after working so hard at the best restaurant in Florida, Merlino's Restaurant."