Pizza Express is a weird one. On the surface, a corporate brand of identikit restaurants serving replica food in multiple places. So far so unappealing. And yet, compared to others in the chainosphere, there has always been something a little different that has set Pizza Express apart. 

Perhaps it is in its origins; their first branch  was opened in 1965 in London by Peter Boizot, a man with a passion for Italian food, and in 1969 they began hosting popular jazz performances. Now, despite having approximately 500 restaurants across the UK, openings in several more countries, and a strong supermarket presence, much of their original ethos remains. 

More recent chain arrivals appeared to follow Pizza Express’ lead in appealing to everyone, with slick service, comfortable atmosphere, and after all, decent food at accessible prices. So, recent news that they are in a spot of bother was rather unexpected. 

Indeed, pizza is as in demand as ever before. Across every town and city there are various versions of everybody’s favourite cheese on toast to eat out or take away from; York has its own excellent selection, from crazy American toppings to authentic Neapolitan goodness. So, here’s hoping Pizza Express survives, but here’s hoping these awesome independents thrive too: 

The home of pizza has a strong community in York, and this is reflected in the array of Italian eateries around town. Some are tourist hotspots, others offer traditional delicacies. One which is something of a city institution and fires up a cracking pizza is Delrio’s. This charming cellar restaurant opened in 1992 and has been serving Sardinian flavours to York ever since. 

The vibe is informal yet special, an undoubted evening out which is welcoming for all. Alongside a menu of pastas and pasticcerias are a list of homemade Italian style pizzas. Names will be familiar to Pizza Express customers, from Diavola to Rustica, due to their simple and effective combination of traditional Italian toppings. The base of san marzano tomatoes and 100% mozzarella is unarguable and proves Delrio’s high quality credentials. 

With their supermarket range, Pizza Express acknowledged that sometimes a pizza is equally satisfying from the comfort of home, and takeaways have of course been firing up a roaring trade delivering this for many years. On Tang Hall Road, Buffalo Pizza is doing just that by pleasing differing palates on a vast menu that sways between the traditional and the inventive. Margheritas and prosciuttos line up alongside the more unusual listings like the James Dean Special, which spreads chilli con carne with onions. Much like Pizza Express, Buffalo Pizza are generous in their regular offers too. Here, there are student discounts, forces discounts, online discounts, meal deals, free deliveries, free garlic breads… something for everyone, surely! 

Back inside to another amazing independent eatery which creates that great casual setting perfect for pizza eating. Bistro Guy serves up sourdough logfire pizzas in a traditional clay oven which is as delicious as it sounds. Elevated ingredients, including nduja, oak smoked salmon, goats cheese, capers and wild mushrooms, alongside knowing titles like Hipster and The Artisan, altogether mix authentic Italy with the modern day York. Friday and Saturday nights are pizza and beer celebrations that add an array of local breweries to the doughy goodness. 

There is also a surprising and splendid outdoors at Bistro Guy, and indeed one of the joys of pizza is in its flexibility to be scoffed down anywhere. Other great places are serving up quality slices on the streets of York, with Pizza Me at Spark, Pizzoli at Shambles Market, and The Block on Goodramgate all notable examples of laid back tasty dining for all comers. Whatever happens to Pizza Express, inside, outside, and at home, York independents will continue to give pizza a chance.