John's Pizza in South York: High school delivery guy turns pizza pro
John Navratil turned his high school job into a career. Navratil, owner of John's Pizza Shop in York Township, loved being a pizza delivery guy at the then Nino's Pizza. He was a 17-year-old York County Vo-Tech student at the time, but still says delivering is a great gig. "You can ride around and listen to music all day," he said.
When you talk to him, you know he was dedicated to the job. He's delivered pizza in knee-high snow to houses without shoved driveways. Once, he even got robbed delivering a pizza. "The guy stuck a gun to my stomach...then, grabbed the pizza...I just wanted to show him how to hold the box."
The pizza business wasn't all he fell in love with. He also liked the girl at the counter. She liked him, too. So much so, she asked him out on a date. Two years later, he asked her to marry him. His wife, Stephanie Navratil, is also still a part of the business — she handles the books. And, she makes the lasagna and customer-favorite cream of crab soup.
They have three children.
The cook, Miguel Gonzalez, has been there as long as Navratil (17 years). Another staple of the shop is dishwasher superstar Scott Johnson, who is also a Special Olympian. Ten years ago, he came into the shop on three different days asking for job. Three time's the charm, right? Navratil said hiring him was one of the best decisions he's ever made. "He's like a brother." Navratil said he's lucky he's had these two for so long. Restaurant workers don't stay long, but every one is important.
"I've been here longer than I've been in any house in my life," Navratil said. "When somebody comes into my home, I want to make them part of the family. It goes beyond just a normal boss."
He also wants them to have fun. A chalkboard sign at the front counter reads: Democratic Party, Republican Party, Pizza Party with a big check by Pizza Party. The menu is also written in colorful chalk, giving the place a fun flair. The shop seats about 32 people.
The shop has changed names over the years (first Nino's, then Marcello's and now John's). Since Navratil took over the business around 2006, he upgraded the ingredients (he buys from York-based Ettline Foods), tweaked the pizza sauce and added about a dozen new menu items.
Navratil recommends the pizza, of course, and so did our readers. FlipSidePA posted a pizza poll asking readers where FlipSidePA reporter Abbey Zelko and I should go for good pie and John's Pizza ranked No. 1.
So, I called Navratil to tell him the good news and he let us go behind the scenes, learn how his pizzas are made and even toss the dough. We made his favorite kind of pizza (which is also mine!), pepperoni. And, he showed us the art of spreading, stretching, molding and tossing pizza dough. Thankfully, nothing hit the floor, but our dough never made it into the oven, for good reason. Watch a video our photographer Jason Plotkin took of us.
Looking for a healthy alternative? Navratil recommends the salads. They are made with romaine lettuce. Also on the menu are wraps, pasta dinners, strombolis, calzones, wings, subs and sandwiches.
Can't make it in? Order delivery.
If you go
Location: South York Plaza, 247 Pauline Drive, York (York Township)
Ashley and Abbey's pick: Pepperoni pizza, medium, $13.76
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 9:30 p.m. Sundays
Price range: $4.29 for a 6" sub to $16.99 for a large Special Stromboli
Accepts: Cash and credit
Kid's menu: Yes