'Fat Ange' and cafe exceed crowd-funding goal

Chef-owner (and former mob associate) Angelo Lutz at Kitchen Consigliere Cafe.
Chef-owner (and former mob associate) Angelo Lutz at Kitchen Consigliere Cafe. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 18, 2013

Weighing more than 300 pounds, "Fat Ange" has tasted many things. But right now, Angelo Lutz is feasting on perhaps his most satisfying dish: vindication.

The ex-mob associate-turned restaurateur (after a seven-year prison stay) encountered nothing but rejection from at least a dozen banks when he sought a $100,000 loan earlier this year to move his cramped, 11-table Kitchen Consigliere Cafe in Collingswood to roomier digs in the center of town.

The banks told mob boss Joey Merlino's former cook that they don't lend to convicted felons, Lutz said. His 2001 conviction on racketeering, gambling, and extortion charges - food evidently wasn't Lutz's only weakness - also proved a turnoff to the talent scouts at ABC's Shark Tank, the television showcase for entrepreneurs looking for funding.

So Lutz turned to the public for help, hoping those with a passion for sausage and meatballs would have a soft spot for a flawed South Philadelphia bachelor who swears he's now legit. On Aug. 13, he launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise $25,000 to help with operating expenses during the early days in the new place, the former Knight's Bistro at Collings and Haddon Avenues.

He reached his goal about 8:30 p.m. Friday, three days before the Sept. 16 cutoff. By Monday morning, about 12 hours before the end of the fund-raising period set to conclude at 11:59 p.m., the total had reached $31,900 from 233 funders.

"It feels great," a euphoric Lutz said just after hitting the $25,000 milestone. "We're going to get this place open. It's going to open in grand style."

His new restaurant is expected to debut in mid-October. Able to seat 85, it is three times the size of the nearly three-year-old eatery on Powell Lane, the side street from which Lutz said he serves 1,600 dinners a month and turns away from 80 to 100 potential patrons weekly because of limited space.

The fund-raising came with a cost: Indiegogo gets 4 percent of the donations. But it would have gotten 9 percent if Lutz had not reached the $25,000 goal. Plus, Lutz estimated that perks granted to certain levels of donors - rice ball appetizers for $25 donations, spaghetti-and-meatball dinners with house salad and cannoli dessert for four guests for $75 contributions - will cost him close to $16,000.

No matter, he said.

"The amount of support is unbelievable," Lutz said. "I'm excited. I just want to prove everybody wrong."

As in those who doubted he could be rehabilitated.

He had a question for all of them, including the bankers:

"How long do I keep paying for my sins?"

Contact Diane Mastrull at 215-854-2466, dmastrull@phillynews.com or @dmastrull on Twitter.

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