Man charged with arson in fire at Pizzeria Mozza during George Floyd protests

Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles was the scene of a fire May 30.
(Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times)

A 42-year-old Sylmar man was indicted on federal arson charges Tuesday in connection with setting fire to the building that houses Pizzeria Mozza in late May, as unrest gripped Los Angeles and some protests were marred by vandalism and thefts.

Mario Ernesto Alvarado faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the charge that he set a fire inside the popular Hancock Park restaurant on May 30, according to a media release from the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

The incident occurred during the second of several nights of widespread protests against police brutality across the city that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. On May 30, protests in the Fairfax district devolved into altercations between officers, peaceful demonstrators and others who vandalized businesses and set fire to police cars.


Federal prosecutors said Alvarado walked into the building on Melrose and Highland avenues known as the Mozzaplex, which houses Pizzeria Mozza, poured flammable liquid onto the ground and set a fire. The blaze caused more than $500,000 in structural damage to the building, prosecutors allege.

Alvarado was arrested July 16 and remains free on $25,000 bond. His public defender declined to comment.

Michael Krikorian — a former Times reporter and partner to Nancy Silverton, chef and owner of the four Mozzaplex restaurants — said earlier this year that the fire inside Mozza2Go left a table and some books charred. Television footage from that night showed smoke billowing out of the building, however, and a row of firetrucks on Melrose Avenue.

The investigation was carried out by the SAFE LA Task Force, a joint effort between the FBI, the Los Angeles Fire Department and police in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills to identify and arrest those who caused property damage and set fires during the demonstrations.