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Mary Mahoney’s customers defend MS restaurant that sold foreign fish as fresh from Gulf

In World
June 03, 2024

Loyal customers shared their love for Mary Mahoney’s Old French House on social media over the weekend after the restaurant pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiring to defraud customers by passing off foreign seafood as Gulf fresh fish.

Mahoney’s and co-owner Anthony “Tony” Cvitanovich are set for sentencing Sept. 12. Mahoney’s has agreed to forfeit $1.35 million and could be subject to five years’ probation on the charge of conspiring with others to misbrand fish. Mahoney’s was represented at the plea hearing in federal court by co-owner Eileen Mahoney Ezell. Cvitanovich faces up to three years in prison after pleading guilty to mislabeling fish.

Three unidentified co-conspirators listed in the federal charges have yet to be identified: A Biloxi seafood wholesaler and retailer, and two of its current or former employees.

Supporters of the iconic Mahoney’s, recognized nationally for its Southern hospitality, unique atmosphere and, yes, Gulf seafood, took to Facebook over the weekend to gush about the meals and good times they have enjoyed there. While some commenters chastised Mahoney’s for deceiving the public, positive posts on Facebook outweighed their comments.

Someone posted on the Biloxi Main Street page: “Some of the greatest times in life are spent at Mary Mahoney’s Old French House! The food is excellent coastal cuisine. The service is unequaled. BUT it’s the ambiance that is totally unique and unlike any other place in the world!”

Facebook commenters mostly praise Mahoney’s

Co-owner Bobby Mahoney, who makes the rounds daily in the dining rooms of Mahoney’s historic building to greet customers and tell corny jokes, said Monday that the Mahoney and Cvitanovich families appreciate the support. The normally loquacious Mahoney said he is unable to say more at this time.

His and Eileen Mahoney’s mother, Mary Mahoney, and her brother Andrew Cvitanovich, father of Anthony, founded the restaurant in 1964. Mahoney’s recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Given the restaurant’s iconic status, the Mississippi Coast was collectively shocked when the charges against Mahoney and Cvitanovich were unsealed Thursday.

From as early as 2002 until November 2019, Mahoney’s conspired with the unidentified Biloxi seafood business and two of its employees to misbrand fish from India, Africa and South America as Gulf snapper or redfish, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi has charged.

Judging from Facebook comments, many customers were willing to overlook the crimes. Mahoney’s is a fine dining tradition for many Coast families.

A woman identified as Debbie Batia wrote: “Mary Mahoney’s has been & will always be The Crapo & Batia Family’s favorite restaurant for all occasions- Birthdays- Anniversaries- Rehearsal Dinners – Bridal Showers – We’ve had them there over the years … We love Ya’ll!!”

Said Facebook user Jamie Rhodes: “All this talk about my favorite restaurant sure is making me HUNGRY. I can’t wait to get home and support my FAVORITE restaurant on the coast, Mary Mahoney’s.”

Ricky Mathews, former Sun Herald publisher and now host of The Ricky Mathews Show on SuperTalk FM, offered one of the few critical commentaries about what happened at Mahoney’s:

“As a community, we must hold businesses accountable for their actions and demand transparency and honesty in all aspects of their operations,” his post said, in part. “Mary Mahoney’s has a long road ahead to regain the trust of its customers, and it’s crucial that they take this opportunity to make things right and rebuild their reputation.”

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