Peter Boizot: Hundreds at Pizza Express founder's memorial

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

Hundreds of people attended the memorial service of the man who founded the Pizza Express chain.

Peter Boizot opened his first restaurant in Wardour Street, Soho, in 1965 and it now has 490 branches around the UK and Ireland.

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

The service for the entrepreneur, who died aged 89 on 5 December, was held at Peterborough Cathedral.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Peter Boizot wanted to "bring great pizza to the UK", restaurant managing director Zoe Bowley said
Image caption Peterborough United director of football Barry Fry (right) was at the service. He was in charge of the Posh when Mr Boizot bought the club

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

He took on his first premises on a peppercorn rent, imported an oven and sold slices of pizza wrapped in napkins.

More restaurants quickly followed and he worked with the Italian designer Enzo Apicella to develop the chain's look.

His sister Clementine Allen said he was stubborn, turning unlikely premises into "usable restaurants".

She said: "He was magical, he was dogged and in his heart he loved Peterborough."

Image caption About 400 people attended the memorial in Peterborough Cathedral

Mr Boizot also owned the city's Broadway Theatre and Great Northern Hotel during the 2000s.

Toby Wood, from the Peterborough Civic Society, said he hoped a part of the city's hoped-for university could be named after him.

Image caption Peter Boizot was a boy chorister at cathedral and remained close to Peterborough

Peterborough United chaplain Richard Longfoot gave a reading at the service.

The vicar of Peterborough Canon Ian Black remembered Mr Boizot's "enormous contribution to this city and further afield, in business, in sport, in music and hospitality and for his friendship and support".

Mr Boizot was a jazz lover and in 1969 set up the Pizza Express Jazz Club in the basement of one of his restaurants.

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

The memorial service collection will be divided between that fund and the Peterborough Cathedral Trust.

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