The five-foot-wide fruit was stolen from the front of East Side Mario's in Ontario back in 2016.

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Tomato
Credit: Adam Mitchinson/Getty Images

Matt Kraft had only had the giant tomato for a year before it disappeared from a well-manicured patch of grass in front of his restaurant. He'd saved the five-foot-wide tomato and its even larger sibling from an East Side Mario’s that was about to be torn down and lovingly, uh, replanted them in front of his own East Side Mario's location more than 60 miles away in Peterborough, Ontario.

But in the spring of 2016, Kraft arrived at work and realized that someone had stolen the smaller of the tomatoes, prying it from its wooden frame and taking it from the property. "Little Brother," as he'd called it, was gone, the victim of a successful (but hilariously pointless) decorative fruit heist.

Kraft didn't call the police, but he did speak to the local press. He appeared in the Peterborough Examiner, standing protectively in front of his remaining tomato and holding a picture of the two tomatoes together in happier times. He offered a free Italian dinner for four to anyone who returned the tomato… and then he waited.

And he waited, and he waited. Spring warmed into summer. Summer melted into fall. Months gathered into years. The remaining tomato sat alone, a bright red reminder of what East Side Mario's Peterborough still had, and of what it had lost.

But a few days ago, just before Kraft would have to mark another grim, tomato-less anniversary, he got an early-morning phone call. A runner had just seen a large tomato sitting beside a pile of brush in the nearby Nicholls Oval Park, and she wondered whether it might be his? "I know my tomato, Carol. It was my tomato," Kraft told Carol Off, the host of CBC's As It Happens. "It was pampered. It was loved by many and there are a lot of people who are rejoicing this week."

Kraft believes that the thief or thieves—who remain unidentified and still at large—had to use a truck to steal the tomato, and he speculates that it might've spent all those months hidden in someone's garage after they realized that they couldn't really… do anything with the well-known local tomato. "I can only imagine when they saw it on TV and radio and stuff, and they were like, 'Oh no. We've got this hot tomato. What are we doing to do with it?'" he said.

He also likes to think that this Telltale Tomato weighed heavily on the kidnapper's conscience, which is why it was taken to the park and left in an open area where it would be discovered. "It is in perfect condition," Kraft told The Star.

After four long years, the tomato is finally back where it belongs. There are still so many unanswered questions—Where was it kept? What did it see? Who did this?—but those too, will fade, as the tomato again welcomes customers to East Side Mario's. The restaurant is only open for takeout and delivery right now, but Kraft still plans to give that runner her four-meal reward.

Welcome home, Little Brother.