Pizza Express founder Peter Boizot, 89, is dead

The man who delivered pizza to Britain: Peter Boizot who founded Pizza Express in the 1960s because he couldn’t find anywhere to eat decent Italian food in London has died aged 89

  • Peter Boizot passed away at his home in Peterborough, his sister confirmed 
  • The Peterborough-native was chairman of Peterborough United Football Club 
  • Mr Boizot first opened a Pizza Express shop in 1965 after returning from abroad  
  • Chain went from strength to strength and has 320 outlets in UK and 61 abroad 

Pizza Express founder Peter Boizot has passed away at his home in Peterborough. 

His sister Clementine Allen confirmed her brother and former Peterborough United Football Club owner, 89, had died. 

The entrepreneur opened his first Pizza Express in Soho in 1965 and has been widely credited for introducing pizza to the masses and revolutionising the casual-dining experience.

Peter Boizot opened his first Pizza Express after failing to find any Italian food in London

Pizza Express founder Peter Boizot attends the launch of the ‘New Generation’ in 2010. He first opened a shop in 1965

Scott Hamilton (tenor saxophone) and Warren Vache (flugelhorn) playing live at Pizza Express in London in February 1979. In 1969, Peter started PizzaExpress Jazz Club, with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Amy Winehouse starring there. Ever since, music has been at the heart of the dining experience 

Pizza Express owner Peter Boizot standing outside his shop

Gregory Porter performing at Pizza Express Dean Street in Soho in 2001

Fat Boys perform at Pizza Express in Kensington, London in 1985

Amy Winehouse celebrated her 26th birthday with dinner in Pizza Express in Marylebone in 2009

Ian Shaw and Sue Richardson perform on stage at Pizza Express Live, Soho as part of the London Jazz Festival 2009 on November 17, 2009 i

Each Pizza Express shop is individually designed depending on the local tastes of the area. Pictured: The Pizza Express in Kingston upon Thames in 2004

Pizza Express managing director Zoe Bowley said: ‘In his 89 years, this remarkable entrepreneur achieved an astonishing amount, not just within the dining industry, but across music, sport, and charity as well.

‘He launched a culinary revolution with the first PizzaExpress in 1965, introducing delicious pizza and casual dining to the UK, inspired by his travels in Italy.’

She added: ‘His philanthropic work was renowned, raising £2million for the Venice in Peril fund and he inspired the company to continue this charitable mission.  

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‘Peter’s spirit and vision to bring great pizza to the UK and beyond, and his passion for good food and good times, will live on.

‘We will miss him dearly. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this time.’ 

A statement from the firm on their Facebook page read: ‘It is with great sadness that we share the news that our founder, Peter Boizot, passed away on 5th December 2018. In his 89 years, this remarkable entrepreneur achieved an astonishing amount, not just within the dining industry, but across music, sport, and charity as well.’

It continued: ‘Peter’s spirit, vision and his passion for good food and good times, will live on and we will continue to carry forward his legacy through the people and culture of our business. We will all miss him dearly. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this time.’ 

A statement from Peterborough United Football Club said: ‘The Pizza Express founder was a major part of the success in the late 1990s/early 2000s when Posh secured promotion at Wembley in 2000. 

A big lover of art, with a passion for design, Peter enlisted the help of friend Enzo Apicella to design a number of his restaurants. He started a trend, which continues today, designing each restaurant in its own style that’s relevant and specific to the local area

Then-Chancellor George Osborne reaches for a pinch of pepper as he prepares an ‘American Hot’ pizza during a visit to Pizza Express in Hove, where he was meeting local apprentices and issuing a jobs announcement

‘Everybody at the football club would like to express our condolences and deepest sympathies to the family at this very sad time.’ 

Mr Boizot was born in Peterborough on November 16, 1929 and attended the St Mark’s School in the city, before he became head boy at the King’s School. 

He went on to study History at study History at St Catharine’s College at Cambridge University, before spending 10 years abroad.

During his stint oversea, Mr Boizot taught English in Paris, worked for Nestle’s publicity department and had a spell on the news photo department of Associate Press in Rome.

Peter Boizot was once the owner of his local football team, Peterborough United Football Club

The success of its restaurants allowed the brand to expand into selling its products in supermarkets

Upon his return to England, Mr Boizot opened his first Pizza Express shop in March 1965 after failing to find anywhere in London which served good Italian food.

Mr Boizot’s sister said he opened the first Pizza Express as a takeaway after ‘roaming about Europe and realising there wasn’t any decent pizza about’. 

The Wardour Street premises was taken on by Mr Boizot, who imported an oven and sold slices of pizza wrapped in seviettes to customers.  

More premises quickly followed and, alongside Italian designer Enzo Apicella, he stripped away stuffy dining in favour of the chain’s signature marble table tops and clean lines. 

His chain went from strength-to-strength, becoming recognisable on high streets across Britain and overseas.

The chain has at least 320 outlets in the UK and 61 abroad. It has been such a success it has allowed the brand to launch its pizzas which are sold in supermarkets and shops.

He stepped down from the board of Pizza Express in 1996 but remained involved in the firm as president. 

Last month he was recognised by the Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association with an award for his outstanding contribution to the industry. 

Mr Boizot became a key figure in the fight to save London’s Soho and was a big supporter of jazz. 

Pizza on the Park, Kettners in Soho and Condotti in Mayfair and a pub in Maida Vale all represented his interests. Pizza on the Park is one of London’s foremost jazz music venues because he likes jazz.

Mr Boizot’s Pizza Express brand went from strength to strength, and now has more than 320 outlets in the UK and 61 abroad

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