Peter BoizotImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Peter Boizot wanted to “bring great pizza to the UK”, restaurant MD Zoe Bowley said

The man who founded the Pizza Express restaurant chain has died aged 89.

Peter Boizot discovered the Italian dish while working as an au pair in Florence between leaving school and starting national service.

The entrepreneur opened the first Pizza Express restaurant in Wardour Street, Soho, in 1965 and now has 490 branches around the UK and Ireland.

He remained close to his home city Peterborough and owned Peterborough United from the late 1990s.

Mr Boizot was born in 1929 in Peterborough and went to school in the city before going to Cambridge University.

Pizza Express managing director Zoe Bowley said “we will miss him dearly” and confirmed the “remarkable entrepreneur” died on Wednesday.

She said: “He launched a culinary revolution with the first Pizza Express in 1965, introducing delicious pizza and casual dining to the UK, inspired by his travels in Italy.”

She added he “achieved an astonishing amount, not just within the dining industry, but across music, sport, and charity as well”.

When he heard about the Venice in Peril fund, he created the Veneziana pizza which has so far raised £2m.

Image copyright

Image caption

The entrepreneur was also a football club chairman, a jazz club owner and an art collector during his long life

Peterborough United tweeted it was “saddened to report the death of Peter Boizot” who had also been club chairman.

It credited him with “a major part of the success in the late 1990s/early 2000s when Posh secured promotion at Wembley in 2000”.

Pizza Express was sold to the Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital for £900m in 2014.