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, email@example.com or @dmastrull on Twitter.