A Brief History of Pizza


At Coconut Kenny’s, to say we’re passionate about good pizza is an understatement. It’s one of our favorite foods to eat and enjoy just as it’s one of our favorites to make and serve. But did you know that pizza has existed for a long time? We’re talking thousands of years long.

While there are entire books dedicated to the history of pizza, we wanted to take some time to give a brief history of one of the world’s favorite foods and explore how different cultures have enjoyed pizza.

The Origins of Pizza

The precursor to modern pizza isn’t much different from the tasty pies we know today. Archaeologists and historians have found physical and literary evidence of pizza-like foods throughout the ages, mostly consisting of a type of flatbread with various toppings including vegetables, fruit (not limited to pineapple, believe it or not), and cheese.

As far as what counts as the first pizza, many cultures including the ancient Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, and Sardinians have some strong claims to fame, mostly involving flatbreads.

However, when looking at pizza as a form of flatbread with added ingredients, every culture has its own version. Some examples of this include:

    • Etruscan foccacia
    • Greek pitas
    • Levantine manakish
    • Coca, a type of flatbread from northeastern Spain
    • German Zwiebelkuchen
    • Chinese bing
    • French quiche
    • Paratha, naan, and roti throughout India and Central and South Asia
    • Aztec and Mesoamerican tortillas

While some cultures enjoy these flatbreads plain, many people add various ingredients and toppings to them as well as different preparation styles and presentations.

And though all of these share similarities from one of the oldest flatbreads found in Sardinia dated back to roughly 5000 BC, the pizza we’ve come to know and love stems from Italy only a few hundred years ago.

The Spread of Pizza Around the World

The typical pizza you think of when you hear that delicious 5-letter word originates in Naples, Italy somewhere between the 18th and 19th centuries, evolving from flatbread-based dishes. Tomato – whether as a sauce or cut up into small cubes – wasn’t an initial core part of pizza and it’s unknown when it became a part of the pizza orthodoxy. However, pizza was beloved in Italy and spread slowly throughout Europe as people began to travel more.

As more Italians migrated to other parts of the world, they took their love of pizza with them. America’s first pizzeria opened in New York around 1905. As more Italians continued making their way to American shores and returning soldiers from WWII were exposed to Italian cuisine and culture in their campaigns in the Mediterranean, pizza’s popularity continued to grow.

Though it has its roots in Italy, pizza has been adapted in various countries and regions depending on local tastes, ingredients, and aesthetics. There are plenty of different kinds of pizza and crusts, from the Chicago deep dish to the clam pizza of New England, from the Hawaiian pizza (that’s actually Canadian) to Tokyo’s octopus pizza.

The joy of pizza stems from how it offers something from everyone, everywhere, a melting pot of culture and stories as interesting and strange as the ingredients used.

Want to Try a Local Spin on Pizza?

Coconut Kenny’s continues this tradition of adapting and creating new kinds of pizza. While our menu has a handful of classics, we also have various pizzas you can’t find anywhere else like the Tiki Tan or the Kalua Kona. 

Want to try them out for yourself? Stop by today or place a to-go order through our app.

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