Peter Boizot discovered the Italian dish while working as an au pair in Florence between leaving school and starting national service.
The entrepreneur opened the first Pizza Express restaurant in Wardour Street, Soho, in 1965 and now has 490 branches around the UK and Ireland.
He remained close to his home city Peterborough and owned Peterborough United from the late 1990s.
Mr Boizot was born in 1929 in Peterborough and went to school in the city before going to Cambridge University.
His sister Clementine Allen said he took on his first premises on a peppercorn rent, imported an oven and sold slices of pizza wrapped in napkins.
More premises quickly followed and he worked with the Italian designer Enzo Apicella to develop the chain’s look.
Mr Boizot was a jazz lover and in 1969 set up the Pizza Express Jazz Club in the basement of one of his restaurants.
Pizza Express managing director Zoe Bowley said “we will miss him dearly” and confirmed the “remarkable entrepreneur” died on Wednesday.
She said: “He launched a culinary revolution with the first Pizza Express in 1965, introducing delicious pizza and casual dining to the UK, inspired by his travels in Italy.”
She added he “achieved an astonishing amount, not just within the dining industry, but across music, sport and charity as well”.
When he heard about the Venice in Peril fund, he created the Veneziana pizza which has so far raised £2m.
Mr Boizot, who became a vegetarian at the age of six, sold Pizza Express for £15m in 1993 but remained president.
Peterborough United tweeted it was “saddened” about hi death, and credited him with “a major part of the success in the late 1990s/early 2000s when Posh secured promotion at Wembley in 2000”.
He also owned the city’s Broadway Theatre and Great Northern Hotel during the 2000s.
Pizza Express was sold to the Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital for £900m in 2014.