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Arson Investigated At Mona Lisa Deli In San Diego's Little Italy

July 18, 2020

San Diego Fire Department officials are investigating a possible arson following an early morning fire at the popular Mona Lisa Deli in Little Italy.

The San Diego Fire Department reported that crews responded to a structure fire just before 4am outside Mona Lisa Italian Foods on India Street. Firefighters viewed the Mona Lisa Deli ablaze and were able to extinguish the fire in the early morning hours. There have been no injuries reported in connection to the fire and there is little damage to the San Diego Italian deli and restaurant, as the fire was limited to the outdoor area. Mona Lisa remains open for take-out, delivery and outdoor dining, although the fire caused an estimated $32,000 worth of property damage.  

The suspected arsonist
The man, who was shirtless and appeared to be in his mid-20s to early 30s, set a commercial garbage bin ablaze next to Mona Lisa Italian Foods in the 2000 block of India Street at about 3:45a, Saturday, according to the San Diego Metro Arson Strike Team. The flames spread to a nearby delivery van and the building housing the restaurant before firefighters were able to bring them under control. Surveillance cameras captured images of the perpetrator, described as a stocky, balding and unshaven man with a large vertical tattoo along the right side of his ribcage. At the time of the fire, he was wearing tight-fitting jeans and dark-colored loafers. Word on the street is there were two public trash cans set ablaze on the same night in the Hillcrest area between The Loft and Nunu’s at around 11pm. People are speculating the Mona Lisa fire may be linked.

"Hello everyone, thank you for the calls and your concern regarding an arson incident that took place at our building early this morning," posted Mona Lisa representatives to the business's social media accounts. "We are happy to report that the fire was contained to an outside dumpster and no major damage was done. Most importantly, we are thankful that no one was hurt and we are all safe. Thank you to the amazing firefighters and the good samaritan who made the call that allowed them to respond to the scene so quickly. We are so grateful. We are open today for regular hours. We will overcome this, as we have many things! Grazie a tutti".

The original Mona Lisa was opened in 1956 in downtown San Diego by Stefano Brunetto. The Little Italy eatery and deli opened in 1973 and is considered a San Diego institution for Italian foods. The business is now operated by Stefano Brunetto 3rd and his family.

Anyone who might be able to help investigators track down the arsonist is asked to call San Diego County Crime Stoppers at 888.580.8477 or contact the agency online at sdcrimestoppers.org. Tipsters may remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Mona Lisa Italian Foods is located at 2061 India Street in San Diego's Little Italy. For more information, visit monalisalittleitaly.com and check out the surveillance video below.