On Friday, PizzaExpress celebrates a milestone as it reaches its 50th birthday. The first restaurant opened on 27th March 1965, on London’s Wardour Street, and remains an integral part of PizzaExpress’ heritage. The recent opening of PizzaExpress’ flagship restaurant in Leicester Square further builds on its London roots.
All 10,000 team members at PizzaExpress restaurants across the country will be marking the 50th anniversary. The brand is also celebrating with the launch this week of ‘Create Your New Favourite’, a competition which gives fans the chance to create a new pizza, which will feature on the menu in restaurants later this year. In addition, customer favourites from the last half century - the American Hot, Margherita and La Reine - have inspired a new Romana65 range of pizzas boasting premium ingredients as part of the restaurant’s new Spring Summer menu.
In 1965, Peter Boizot had a dream of bringing the spirit of Italian pizza to the UK. His travels around Italy - and his first taste of pizza in 1948 - inspired Peter to make sure the flavours he experienced abroad could be enjoyed closer to home. He returned to England with a pizza oven and a trained chef to open the first PizzaExpress restaurant. So PizzaExpress was born, a restaurant using Italian ingredients to create real Italian pizza, cooked in a genuine pizza oven. It was a simple idea, but a radical one back in the swinging sixties. To stop potential rivals beating him to it while he was searching for the perfect location for his first restaurant, Peter tied-up an exclusive deal with London’s only mozzarella maker. By a stroke of luck, the cheese maker, Margaret Zampi, had a restaurant to sell in Wardour Street at the heart of Soho
In 1967 a second PizzaExpress restaurant was opened on Coptic Street, in London’s Bloomsbury and was an instant success. Peter employed his friend, the renowned Italian designer Enzo Apicella, to bring an individual new look to the premises and the design won high praise. But great restaurant design didn’t end there. Since the 1960s, stunning, vibrant works of art have been displayed in PizzaExpress restaurants. Mixing prints with original pieces, the paintings in PizzaExpress restaurants include creations by such respected artists as Peter Blake, whose work can still be seen in PizzaExpress’ Chiswick restaurant.
Thanks to Peter Boizot’s love of music, jazz has been on the menu at PizzaExpress almost from the start. Noticing that ‘60s beatniks would sit for hours over a single pizza, Peter decided that introducing music would enhance the experience. The PizzaExpress Jazz Club at Dean Street is now an internationally acclaimed jazz venue, which has hosted performances by Bud Freeman, Sting, Van Morrisson, Diana Krall, Amy Winehouse and Tony Bennett. Jamie Cullum also credits the PizzaExpress Jazz Club with launching him.