Anniversaries come and go without much notice, but not when it’s John’s Pizzeria and Cocktail Lounge in Fenton. John’s Pizzeria and Cocktail Lounge employs about 24 people, many of whom have been with the restaurant for over 25 years. Everyone who walks through their doors is made to feel like family, which has contributed to the longevity and popularity of this local family-owned restaurant.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Delio and Sandy for the past five years, and my children have grown up knowing and experiencing what an amazing place and family they are and what a great place they own. Before my kids started kindergarten, Delio would let them come in and “help” during the week while he was setting up the lunch buffet. They also knew where they could get their suckers after their meal, but only if they cleaned their plates.
Delio passed away suddenly in his sleep at the young age of 76, in September of 2013, just a few months short of seeing his restaurants 50th anniversary. Those who knew Delio remember him fondly and always have memories to share about his restaurant, his food, and most importantly about his character. His daughter, Sandy Barletta Zdenek, who operated the restaurant with her father for the past 20 years, has continued to run the business seamlessly since his death, carrying on the tradition of good food, great service and a family atmosphere.
In 1959, there were 29 Italian immigrants who came over by boat from Italy to start new lives in America. Newly married to his bride, Vilma, Delio brought her to America to begin their married life together. Delio worked for a short time with GM in Pennsylvania and then was transferred to Michigan where he got a part time job at the local restaurant owned by another Italian immigrant, the place known as John’s Pizzeria and Cocktail Lounge.
Delio Barletta purchased that restaurant from John, the proprietor, in 1964, and over the next five decades, John’s Pizzeria and Cocktail Lounge witnessed many changes. In the beginning, Vilma, made thousands of meatballs a week for the restaurant, and many other family members and Italian immigrants learned how to open their own restaurants in the area with the help and expertise from Delio.
When asked why he kept the name, John’s Pizzeria & Cocktail Lounge, Barletta would reply, “I bought it, and I never changed the name because business was good.” It became a local inside joke to the employees and those who knew him that if someone came calling, asking for the owner, John, they knew it had to be a solicitor.
The Fenton community quickly adopted Delio and his family into their community, and the area became their home away from home. Delio preferred the small, close-knit community of Fenton, which was a drastic contrast to his hometown, a large tourist city in Italy called Patrica.
The restaurant was known to be the place to “hang out” after local high school football games, and diners fondly remember getting scolded by Delio if they were just loitering and not ordering food. In the early 2000’s, the restaurants popularity prompted expansion of it’s space to create a new dining area and banquet facility, with seating capacity for 120 people.
In 2011, I had the honor of presenting Delio with the Fenton Chamber of Commerce Enterprise Award at the Annual Dinner held on his birthday. I also surprised him by having the entire room sing “Happy Birthday” to him as he walked up to receive the award.
Inspired by support from the community and loyal customers, as well as their wish to continue a family tradition, the father and daughter team chose to expand even further and to offer local area delivery of their famous food right to customers’ homes in 2012.
John’s is still a popular place for hosting weddings, holiday parties, funeral dinners, local charity events and benefits, civil organization meetings, baby showers, bridal showers, first communicant celebrations, and so much more. They also have a large catering business for open houses, family reunions and any event where the host wants to serve the best Italian food in the area. This fall, Sandy and her family are celebrating 50 years of John’s Pizzeria and Cocktail Lounge family tradition in Fenton, Michigan with a celebration of food specials, live music and more.
Lunch Buffet: Monday – Friday, all you can eat for $6.99
Monday & Tuesday: 50% off ALL Pizzas, Any Size
Tuesday: $2 off ALL Pasta Dishes
Wednesday: 50% off Stromboli AND $2 off Fish & Chips or Cod (fried or baked)
Thursday: Kids 5 and Under Eat FREE
Friday: King & Queen Prime Rib
Located at 1492 North Leroy Street, Fenton, Michigan.