Gondola owns three of Britain’s most popular casual dining brands – Pizza Express and the Ask and Zizzi pizza and pasta chains. Pizza Express started in 1965 when Peter Boizot began making pizzas in Soho with an oven imported from Rome. That company was merged with Ask by private-equity owners TDR and Capricorn Ventures, and then floated in 2005. Just over a year later, Cinven paid £900m to take the business private again. New restaurants took sales to an annualised £396.8m in 2006, and executive director Harvey Smyth plans to open a further 25 to 30 this year.
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