The history of PizzaExpress begins in 1948 when company founder Mr Peter Boizot MBE tasted his first pizza in Florence. After returning to London in the 1960s he realised that the UK lacked a pizza worth its name. Good pizza, he decided, needed to be cooked authentically, like those he had enjoyed elsewhere in Europe. But for that he needed a special oven which could reach the high temperatures necessary.
The first PizzaExpress oven was brought all the way from Rome along with a man to operate it, and was set up in the company’s first restaurant in Wardour Street, in London’s Soho. Business boomed and in 1967 a second restaurant opened – this time in Coptic Street, Bloomsbury. The commitment to how PizzaExpress restaurants look was evident even then with interior designer and popular artist Enzo Apicella commissioned to transform the building. Year after year more restaurants continued to open to meet the hunger of Britons eager to taste authentic Italian pizza.
As one of the UK’s most successful private restaurant businesses, PizzaExpress was floated on the London Stock Exchange in February 1993. Three years later the restaurants, which were franchised, were bought back to give the Company greater control in ensuring the brand went from strength to strength. This has led to the total of over 300 restaurants in the UK and Ireland, and the serving of 16 million customers a year.