The Curious Story of How a Restaurant Chain Called 'Boston Pizza' Ended Up in Canada

And what exactly is “Boston” pizza?

Boston Pizza, Canada
Photo: Roberto Machado Noa/Getty Images; David Cooper/Getty Images

If you say “New York pizza” or “Chicago pizza” to most Americans, they’ll know exactly what you are talking about — either a thin crust pizza or a deep dish. Even “California pizza” might have some specific meaning or associations.

But “Boston pizza”? What’s that?

Visitors to almost any city in Canada may come across a chain restaurant with that exact name, and be confused as to what the heck the restaurant serves.

Turns out, there’s a funny backstory as to why this popular Canadian restaurant is named after an American city that isn’t particularly famous for its pizza.

The first Boston Pizza opened in 1964 in Edmonton, Alberta. It was started by Gus Agioritis, a Greek immigrant and first generation Canadian.

“He opened up a pizza place and wanted to call it something Greek,” said Adrian Fuoco, the Senior Director of Marketing at Boston Pizza. “So when he went to apply for a business license, he submitted three names, Acropolis Pizza, Parthenon Pizza, and then just wrote down Boston Pizza.”

Why? No one really knows, Fuoco said.

“His neighbor was a Bruins fan, so maybe that was it,” he said. “Also, maybe because Boston was an easy word for him to pronounce, so he just wrote it down. For a Greek guy in Edmonton in the 1960s, Boston was an exotic place.”

When Agioritis got the license in the mail, his first choice names were taken, so his business was officially named Boston Pizza.

A few years later, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer named Jim Treliving, had some Boston Pizza pizza and loved it.

“He asked if he could open a second location, a franchise, and he did that,” Fuoco said. Boston Pizza expanded to more franchises in the 1970s, and in 1983 Treliving bought the company from Agioritis. It has since expanded to more than 400 locations.

Fuoco said he often gets asked what style of pizza Boston Pizza serves. His answer is that they serve their own style, Boston Pizza style pizza.

“Here in Canada, we just have the description of the pizza without the city names, so we say deep dish or thin crust pizza,” he said. “The closest to ours is Greek pizza. Gus was Greek and we still use his original recipe, so it’s a thicker style pizza, cooked in pan like Chicago but much thinner.”

“The bread is airy, it looks thick but it’s a little bit light,” he added. “It’s a new style of pizza that you don’t really get anywhere else.”

Boston Pizza has since expanded outside of Canada to some locations in the United States and Mexico. But will it ever open a location in Boston?

“Probably not in the short term, but you never know,” Fuoco said.

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