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Otton's mission was a thin slice of life

September 06, 2007|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

Brad Otton's two-year Mormon mission not only broadened his horizons, it also honed his culinary tastes.

Otton led USC to a Rose Bowl win over Northwestern in 1996. But it was the two years he spent on a mission in Italy before transferring to USC in 1994 that formed his future.

"I don't think I was a great missionary, and Italy is mainly Catholic," Otton said. "I got over the fact that I wasn't going to convert people and just started helping people. I fell in love with the culture, the music, the soccer. . ."

And the pizza.

"I loved the pizza there and it was a business that I didn't think had been tapped into very well in America," Otton said.

So, a decade later, Otton started up the Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana in Henderson, Nev., with a second recently opened in Salt Lake City and plans for a third in Los Angeles.

"You just can't find pizza and pasta like they make in Italy here," Otton said. "When my football coaching career ended, I decided I wanted to do something dealing with things from Italy."

Football was all Otton had known. His father, Sid, holds the record for most wins by a high school coach in the state of Washington. Brad played three seasons at USC and ended up as the director of football operations at Nevada Las Vegas for former coach John Robinson.

When Robinson stepped down after the 2004 season, Otton, who had a family, changed direction and looked for something less volatile than coaching.

"I had a son, and had one foot in coaching and one foot out," Otton said. "So I went back to Napoli and studied how to make pizza. I went to school and worked in a pizzeria. It's different over there. It's really thin and really light."

To help create Italian-style pizza in the United States, Otton even hired a chef from Napoli.

"I just knew it would be a good business here," Otton said. "Most people who have lived in Italy know that every city has special pizza."

chris.foster@latimes.com

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