Vince’s Italian Pizzeria
A true Pacific Northwest original, this “Garlic Gulch” upstart used TV, radio and “buy three, get one free” deals to grow into multiple locations and concepts.
In 1957, South Seattle was known as “Garlic Gulch” for its influx of Italian immigrants, but pizzerias hadn’t yet infiltrated the area—until Naples native Vince Mottola Sr. and his wife, Ada, started Vince’s Italian Pizzeria. Vince Sr. had worked in a renowned catering company in Italy, then an Italian bakery in Seattle, so his passion for food was firmly established, while Ada charmed customers with her classic Italian beauty. “He was eager to open an Italian pizzeria, because there wasn’t much pizza in the area; he was one of the first,” recalls Vince Mottola Jr., current owner of Auburn, Washington-based Vince’s Restaurant Family with partner Fred Martichuski (who started as a dishwasher under Vince Sr.). “He created pizza the way he remembered it growing up in Naples: keeping it simple with hand-tossed dough and the freshest, best ingredients.”
The Italian community embraced the pizzeria, which moved down the street in the early ’60s to expand into a full-service restaurant and bar that achieved wildfire success with pizza and traditional homemade Italian specialties. Vince Sr. attracted customers by offering “buy three pizzas, get one free”—a promotion remembered fondly and still offered today—and investing in then-pricey TV and radio ads, leading to more locations in the ’70s and ’80s. Ever ahead of his time, Vince Sr. even helped pioneer a software program for accounting in the ’70s (still used at Vince’s).
Now the company embraces modern communications through an email club and social media marketing, while passionate staff members like Dave Dorough (a 40-year Vince’s veteran who’s now a partner in some of the restaurants and heads its central kitchen) make customers feel like part of the family. “We have this great opportunity to take care of people at the best part of the day—when they eat,” Vince Jr. says. “We never want to take that opportunity for granted and try to really make it special every time they come in.”
Vince Jr. took over in 1983 and continued expansion: Today, he helms three Vince’s Italian locations, plus the certified-Neapolitan concept Pizzeria Pulcinella (opened in 2008) and Via Marina Wood-Fired Pizza and Italian Cafe (since 2014). He even created a tour company in 2003, ushering groups to Italy for food-focused tours that delve into the roots of Vince’s, while fundraisers throughout the year ensure the business remains an important part of the local community’s fabric. “Pizza is in my DNA, but you have to constantly be looking to improve,” Vince Jr. concludes. “We want to be around for 70, 80, 100 years. There’s a great tradition here, and we want that success to be sustained.”