Sunday, July 26, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Vincent Mottola's Restaurants Helped Popularize Pizza

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Vincent "Enzo" Mottola, who came from the home of pizza - Naples, Italy - helped create a new home for pizza in Seattle.

As founder of Vince's Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria and other restaurants, he helped popularize the dish before the advent of pizza-place chains.

The genial restaurateur and one-time taxi driver and terrazzo contractor also helped Italian immigrants and the children of immigrants find homes and work in Seattle.

The Italian government twice awarded him commendations for his promotion of Italian culture and for his social and business success.

He wasn't one to boast of such things, said his son Vince L. Mottola, owner of Vince's Enterprises.

"He's employed thousands of people in the restaurants, and served hundreds of thousands of customers over the years," said his son. "He definitely will be remembered."

Mr. Mottola died of heart failure July 18 in Palm Springs, Calif., his home since his retirement last year. He was 65.

While growing up in Naples, he developed an interest in music, theater and psychology. He worked for a caterer. He also taught himself hypnosis, later helping friends and employees lose weight or stop smoking.

"He had a real commanding presence," said his son.

Mr. Mottola moved to Seattle in 1954, sent for his bride, and lived above Gai's original bakery, where he worked. He would come upstairs at lunchtime and bring his wife warm, fresh doughnuts and bread.

He opened his first restaurant in 1954 on Pacific Highway South. Working his other jobs and running the restaurant at night, he bought and sold a few more restaurants.

In 1957 he opened Vince's at Renton Avenue South and South Henderson Street in Rainier Valley.

"That restaurant really took off," said his son. "My father took great pride in the authenticity of his recipes and the quality of the food.

"He was one of the pizza pioneers in the area. He didn't have a lot of the other dishes we have now, just a fantastic job on the pizza, all hand-tossed and individually made, the way they do in Italy. The dough is what makes the difference, not piling ingredients on high."

Mr. Mottola came to own 14 restaurants. His sons own restaurants, but only four Vince's remain: in Rainier Beach, Renton Highlands, Burien and Federal Way.

During his heyday he gave away many meals to charitable organizations for fund-raisers, and personally prepared much of the food.

A longtime Seward Park resident, Mr. Mottola traveled the world, often visiting friends and family in Naples.

Other survivors include his wife of one year, Tami Mottola of Palm Springs; his children Pamela DuRuz of Greece, John Mottola of Arlington, Paul Mottola of Federal Way and Marcello Mottola of Kent; his ex-wife, Ada Mottola of Des Moines; sisters Gianna Galli of Naples, and Angela Ricciardelli of Bellevue; 12 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Services are at 1 p.m. tomorrow at St. Edward's Catholic Church, 4213 S. Orcas St., Seattle.

Carole Beers' phone message number is 206-464-2391. Her e-mail address is:

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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