PizzaExpress founder, Peter Boizot, has passed away at the age of 89.
Credited with bringing ‘proper Italian pizza’ to the UK, Boizot travelled to Europe in the 1960s where he discovered his fondness for the continental dining culture.
Following his return to the UK, he identified a lack of authentic Italian pizza restaurants in London and decided to start his own. He also became the first man to import Peroni beer to the UK, according to the company.
It is with sadness that we share the news that our founder, Peter Boizot, has passed away. Peter’s spirit & passion for good food & good times will live on, and we will continue to carry forward his legacy through the people and culture of our business. We will miss him dearly. pic.twitter.com/ZCfGnvwt30
— PizzaExpress 🍕 (@PizzaExpress) December 6, 2018
Boizot shipped a pizza oven straight from Naples, sourced real mozzarella from London and opened the first PizzaExpress store in Wardour Street, Soho, in 1965, where square-shaped pizza slices were sold and served through the front window.
“With it, he revolutionised the UK restaurant scene forever bringing casual dining to the high street,” said a PizzaExpress spokesperson.
Boizot then introduced a wine menu, dining tables, furnishings and an open kitchen to the establishment, with the help of Italian designer Enzo Apicella, who went onto design over 85 PizzaExpress restaurants.
The second PizzaExpress restaurant opened two years later on Coptic Street, Bloomsbury.
Boizot also used the pizza chain to raise money for charity. After the Venice floods in 1966, he introduced the Veneziana pizza and donated a percentage of each one purchased. The pizza is still a part of the menu today.
PizzaExpress stated Boizot frequently said: “The world was my oyster! I believed I could go as far as I could.”
Boizot sold his shares in the business for around £15m in 1992, but remained president.
The spokesperson added: “With a loyal fan base, continued success and more restaurants opening both in the UK and globally, it’s fair to say that Peter brought Italy to Britain, then British Italian to the world. He will be remembered for his vision, his innovation, his extravagance and his warmth.”
PizzaExpress currently has over 470 restaurants across the UK and in 12 markets globally.