PizzaExpress is one of our favourite spots for an evening out - they always seem to be located in such pretty buildings, and we're big fans of its distinctive thinly-rolled pizza bases. But what seems like such a modern brand is actually celebrating its 50th birthday on March 27th, having started in the swinging sixties.
In 1965, Peterborough-born entrepreneur Peter Boizot decided to bring authentic 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.
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. Its passata is sourced from the same Italian stockists and still follows Peter's original recipe.
The first branch [pictured above] was opened in London's Wardour Street, and is still serving today. In 1969 a jazz branch opened in London's Dean Street, and has since then hosted big names from Van Morrison, to Sting and Tony Bennett.
It now has a whopping 449 branches - is there one where you live?
For more nostalgia, pick up the latest copy of Yours