Categories
50s to 90s Food

The Pizza Italia Story 1980 – 2006

Anyone who grew up in Kuwait during the 80s will fondly remember Pizza Italia. The owner of Pizza Italia was Mahmoud Alghanim who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. He was a pioneer in the local restaurant industry creating multiple food brands back before it was even a thing. Recently, a person called John Dade got in touch with me and shared with me the story of how Pizza Italia came to be.

John originally moved to the Middle East in the 70s working for Heublein who were the owners of Kentucky Fried Chicken back then. He was in charge of developing Kentucky Fried Chicken internationally and eventually came to Kuwait in 1977 working for Kuwait Food Company (Americana).

Kuwait Food Company initially started off with the brand Wimpy in 1970 which at that time was one of the first if not the first international fast food chains to enter the Middle East. In 1973 they brought KFC which is how John ended up in the region. John later helped Kuwait Food Company acquire the brands Hardees and Pizza Hut before his contract ended and he decided to move back to the States.

Before leaving back to the US, John got introduced to Mahmoud Alghanim through a mutual friend. Mahmoud was looking for help in developing a fast food concept similar to Mcdonald’s but with Arabic food and a mutual friend recommended he meet with John who he eventually hired.

John started work on the Arabic fast food concept but a year later it was still not done. John started to feel bad since he was getting his full salary but the company wasn’t generating any money at that point. So John approached Mahmoud with an idea, he wanted to open a pizza place for him since it would be easy and quick to set up and it would help them generate income while they continued work on the Arabic fast food concept. Mahmoud liked the idea and gave John a budget of $100,000 and a location in Bayan next to the coop which they opened up in 1980. Together they came up with a cool concept, a fixed price for the pizza no matter what toppings you had on it. They called it Pizza Italia.

Back then food delivery wasn’t a thing. Instead, parents would send their children with the driver to pick up the pizza from the store. Having a fixed price turned out to be incredibly convenient to the parents because no matter what toppings the kids chose, the price of the pizza was still the same.

With the success of the pizza, they realized they also needed ice cream to go along with it. So John and Mahmoud went to the US and did a road trip looking for an ice cream brand to bring to Kuwait. They eventually decided on Häagen-Dazs and brought the franchise to Kuwait. Keep in mind Häagen-Dazs had just opened their first store in 1976 and so were still very new and small back then. The novel introduction of banana splits was also very popular. It was almost impossible to keep up with requests on Friday after the noon prayer. Mahmoud and John were way ahead of their time.

Pizza Italia did so well that the Pizza Hut franchise in Kuwait ended up closing down (they were later brought back by Al Homaizi Group). John stayed on with Mahmoud till 1984 before leaving Kuwait for Saudi Arabia.

Pizza Italia continued operating until the mid-2000s before eventually closing down. I remember back in 2005 they were selling their large-sized pizza with all the toppings (the Godfather) for only KD1.500 and it was really good.

Like Hungry Bunny and Showbiz, Pizza Italia is a brand many will never forget.

29 replies on “The Pizza Italia Story 1980 – 2006”

Pizza italia ❤️
I remember it tasting so good and the plus point was their location
It just had a very cosy ambience to it
Miss it

I remember Pizza Italia well. I also remember the twins in the photograph (John Dade’s daughters). They took ballet with us in the basement of NES with Mrs. Hicks. They were so talented.

The brand was pretty popular before the invasion, but I always felt it never quite recovered post-invasion in terms of popularity…for some reason I thought it closed in the mid-90s but clearly I was wrong, since it lasted till 2005.

Still, it was definitely a treat back in the day.

I still refer to any pizza with everything on it as the godfather.

The pic shown is the Shaab branch yes?

I remember Pizza Italia back in the 90’s, I don’t know which pizza I had, but I thought it tasted good.

For some odd reason I have more fond memories of Prego (Italian). I believe it was situated on the Arabian Gulf Street.

It was also the first place I ever had Perrier.

Pre go was newer than pizza italia. Their location on the gulf road was opposite Souk sharq (building still there). The branch I remember the most was in salmiya across from Zahra complex where pizza italia used to be.

Was that same building that had Al-Manara Bookshop and The Video Club? I think I remember that restaurant and its Sharq location.

They had one in Abbasiya too. The go to for Pizza was the Godfather. It tasted great even if it was cold from the fridge. They had hotdogs with actual relish and mustard and amazing spaghetti n meatballs. Also there was a Tekken arcade machine. I think they got closed down because of competitor marketing and variety. They should have revamped the branding.Also the timeline of shutting in 2006 is because of the last branch standing. In reality they were done in the 90s

Yes, exactly, the branch outside the Jleeb Coop; I still remember it. I loved Margherita. I just loved the name, I guess! The spaghetti and meatballs were amazing!! I still have a very vivid memory of sitting in my dad’s car parked outside and looking at the lightboards with the pictures of the Pizzas inside that you could see through the windows.

I remember Pizza Italia in the early 80’s in Bayan. We used to go there as kids and still have fond memories of the commercial, we used to imitate and sing it.

I remember PI well. Slightly off tangent but I am feeling bad we did not do Showbiz Pizza while it was here.

“John started to feel bad since he was getting his full salary but the company wasn’t generating any money at that point”
awwwww 🙁

great story as usual mark, can’t wait for any story regarding Little Ceaser’s and how popular it was with their famous AD. it was busy in City center branch and Bayan new Coop.It just came to my mind, maybe the decline of Pizza Italia was due to Little Ceaser’s opening in the newer Coop of Bayan.

That’s a franchise I never understood why it closed it down. It was so good, and always seemed to be busy

I miss it

i remember this store pic it was in bayan also i remember my childhood in my grandpa home in qadsiya they was have store there and near from the grandpa home we always go for it and it was so delicious and they also made hamburger sandwich.

i remember also they have store in Mishref city and they also worked when iraqi invasion Kuwait and they used barley flour instead of flour but after little days iraqi burn the store❗

Yes , pizza italia was in kuwait in the years of 80th in Shaab , I still remember it very well, I also still remember its commercial on kuwait TV, I tried it one time in my life, it was amazing & more than that also.

The artichoke topping was my favorite, it gave it such an amazing flavor and smell. I miss pizza Italia.

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