One of the most remarkable and impactful entrepreneurs and philanthropists of the 20th century, PizzaExpress Founder Peter Boizot opened the doors of the first PizzaExpress on Wardour Street in London's Soho on 27th March 1965. With it, he revolutionised the UK restaurant scene.
After serving in the Army and studying at Cambridge, Peter travelled to Europe, living and working in France, Germany and Switzerland before settling in Rome; reporting for the Associated Press and selling postcards from a barrow in St Peter's Square.
Peter's ambition for authenticity, combined with an uncommon determination, proved to be a winning combination. Shipping an authentic pizza oven over from Naples and sourcing real mozzarella from the only producer in London, it was this same drive that saw Peter being the first man to import the Italian Peroni lager to the UK.
The Wardour Street restaurant introduced the concept of casual dining to the UK public, with square slices of pizza being sold in greaseproof paper through the front window for 10p.
An avid art collector throughout his life, Peter was keen to create a stylish aesthetic for his restaurant, teaming up with Italian designer, Enzo Apicella, to do so. Together, they introduced a wine menu, dining tables, the signature PizzaExpress open kitchen and simple, attractive furnishings. Celebrities and journalists flocked to the restaurant and a brand was born.
The second restaurant opened on Coptic Street, next to the British Museum, in 1967. Formerly a dairy, Peter gave Enzo a brief to replicate the aura of the first PizzaExpress but with a completely unique design and décor, in keeping with the building's character and charm.
Peter's interests expanded beyond the realms of pizza and his adoration of jazz music permeated the business. Turning the basement of the Dean Street site in London into a jazz club, the venue became a celebrated destination in its own right, with famous performers such as Jamie Cullum and Norah Jones gracing the keys.
As well as music, Peter was passionate about his hometown. Raised in Peterborough, he returned to the city after his various travels and his generous exploits earned him the affectionate nickname 'Mr Peterborough'. He was also very engaged in charity work. Hearing of the work carried out by Venice in Peril following the 1966 floods, he invented the Veneziana pizza, donating a percentage of each one bought. The pizza remains on the menu and donations have today reached over £2m.