Photo: Casa Ora / Instagram

It started with bikes in the hallway. Then two cases of avocados from the walk-in cooler went missing. A brisket, a phone, an iPad, as thieves became more brazen.

Then, on Wednesday morning, the owners of Michelin-recognized Venezuelan restaurant Casa Ora woke to discover their front door had been smashed in with a brick, the register stolen.

The latest break-in is the third the restaurant has faced in the last two weeks. It happened in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, and on a special day for the restaurant’s co-owners.

“It’s sad because I had a whole day planned for my wife today, it’s her birthday,” Casa Ora co-owner Ivo Díaz said, referring to Casa Ora pastry chef Rachel Díaz Pirard.

“But we’re safe, we’re alive, we’re thankful for that. I’m not even angry. I’m just like, alright, sh*t happens, you know.”

The first break-ins

Díaz said the restaurant first noticed things were going missing around September 20.

They checked the cameras and realized someone had found a way in through an emergency exit door, and had taken food and electronics from the restaurant on two separate nights.

Screenshots from the surveillance video. Image: Casa Ora

After dead-bolting the door, Díaz remembers telling his wife he was worried thieves might now try to find another way in.

“Once they’re in, it’s a vicious cycle,” he said. “This is what I was afraid of.”

On Wednesday morning, the pair woke up to a call from a friend. The door of Casa Ora had been smashed in, and the alarm hadn’t gone off.

Wednesday’s hit

After checking the surveillance footage, the Díaz family saw it all went down at 6:18am Wednesday morning.

In the video the thief, wearing a black hoodie with a crown on it, comes by the restaurant on 148 Meserole Street and looks inside.

“He comes back again and slams the glass and then he leaves for like 5 seconds, making sure nobody saw him, then comes back pulls the register out, and broke a few bottles behind the bar. The whole thing took 15 to 20 seconds,” Diaz said.

The restaurant said, from the video footage, the three break-ins appeared to be done by three different intruders, all using different techniques.

The impact

In an Instagram post Wednesday morning, Casa Ora told its followers about the break-ins and their impact.

“We are #smallbusiness #immigrantbusiness and #womanowned business and every hit is not being billed to a corporate account, but rather our own saving an ultimately affects our ability to pay our staff,” it said.

The restaurant has started a GoFundMe to try to recoup some of what is lost, and to raise funds to get a gate installed to protect the property and replace its security system.

Díaz said the restaurant had spent a lot through the pandemic just to survive, and the extras required just to keep the restaurant secure were expensive.

“But people don’t have to go to the GoFundMe,” Díaz said. People can also support us by coming in, making a reservation to do our Heritage Month Tasting menu, just come support us.”

A Brooklyn treasure

Casa Ora is a family-owned restaurant run by husband-and-wife duo Díaz and Díaz Pirard, and Díaz’s mom Isbelis Díaz, the executive chef.

It’s named after their daughter, Ora.

Since opening, Casa Ora says it is the only Venezuelan restaurant to ever receive a Michelin Plate, a category Michelin launched to showcase restaurants that “simply serve good food.”

To support its community and heritage, Casa Ora donates a portion of its revenue to Fe y Alegria, a nonprofit that supports Venezuelan families forced to seek refuge due to a lack of basic resources.

Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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