Thieves hit 3 Maria's Italian Kitchen restaurants in less than an hour overnight

Thieves broke into three Maria's Italian Kitchen restaurants across Los Angeles early Wednesday morning, making off with two safes in less than an hour.

Maria's Operations Manager Peggy Gonzales said she was heading to the chain's Woodland Hills location around 3 a.m., after the restaurant's alarm went off. While she was waiting for the police, she got a call from the security company, warning her about an alarm going off. 

"I know, I am here," Gonzales said. But they weren't calling her about the Woodland Hills store. It was their other location in Encino being broken into. 

Fifteen minutes later, they got another call, that the Sherman Oaks location had also been broken into. Thieves made off with safes from at least two of the locations.

Thieves walking out of a Maria's Italian Kitchen restaurant with the safe in-hand.

"Incredible," said chain owner Maddy Alfano. "They hit all three restaurants in less than an hour, causing damage more expensive than anything we kept in the safes." 

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The chain shared images, showing the hooded suspects and their vehicle, taking off with two safes. Alfano, who like many other business owners, had to go mostly cashless during the COVID pandemic, said she would prefer to avoid cash altogether, but fears a motion being considered by the Los Angeles City Council, which would force businesses to accept cash.

Councilmember Heather Hutt, who is behind the motion, said the move would be more equitable for those who do not use banks, like the elderly or unhoused.

But Alfano argued that people who get government assistance no longer receive checks, but debut cards, or they can purchase cards with cash. She believes that going cashless would put a dent into the wave of break-ins at business like hers, who are "finding it more difficult to do business in the city, with so many restrictions and guidelines."

The cashless motion is presently in committee, and is expected to go to the full Council for a vote this summer.

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the break-ins, and confirmed that the Woodland Hills location was also broken into earlier this year. Anyone who has information about the break-ins is asked to contact them.