The fire that raged through Brick Township's Villa Vittoria restaurant Monday started when food cooking on a range top was left unattended, according to Ocean County investigators who released preliminary findings this afternoon.

Inspectors deemed the blaze accidental. Meanwhile, it will be up to building contractors and insurance adjusters to determine if any part of the building can be saved, or if it will require total demolition and rebuilding.

The flames, reported at about 3:30 PM, rose to three-alarm status before firefighters began getting the upper hand. Patrons and workers left safely, and the worst was over about two hours later.

The restaurant, on Old Hooper Avenue at Cedar Bridge, was considered a long-time institution in the neighborhood, for evenings out, family occasions, and special events.

The Ocean County Prosecutor's Arson Investigation unit, Brick Township police and the township's Bureau of Fire Prevention collaborated on the findings.

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