How many millions of pizzas has Elli Darmoyslis made over the past 53 years? It depends on whom you ask.

“I used to track every pizza,” Darmoyslis, the 77-year-old pizza maker at The Varsity near Syracuse University, told in August 2017. “I stopped counting at 3 million.”

But that was a long time ago—back when Darmoyslis was a spritely 70. She’s still hand-stretching dough and managing the oven to this day.

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In a March 19 article on, food writer Charlie Miller calculated that the vibrant Greek immigrant would make her 2 millionth pizza by the end of this year’s spring semester, but that was a “back-of-the-envelope estimate.”

We’ll go with Darmoyslis’s figure. If she says she kept count of every pie she made for decades and it comes to 3 million-plus, we believe her. And since she’s been doing the job for the pizzeria’s owners, the Dellas family, since 1971, it’s gotta be a whole lotta pizza.

The Varsity, after all, is virtually a sacred space for Syracuse students, locals and out-of-town basketball and football fans, and grabbing a pie on gameday is a ritual. “It’s a tradition,” Darmoyslis told in 2017. “They come and see me before the game.”

And it’s hard to fault her memory. When Miller showed up at The Varsity for his recent article—part of his ongoing CNY Pizza Tour—Darmoyslis remembered him. He pointed out that he had covered The Varsity for a previous CNY Pizza Tour story in 2012, but Darmoyslis said, “No, no, no. Not that. I remember that one.” She added, “You were a student here when I first made you this same pizza. You were skinnier then.”

Darmoyslis, who came to the U.S. in the 1960s, joined The Varsity team when the owners decided to add pizza to the menu. Back then, she was roughly the same age as the students who were already pouring into the restaurant every day. Over time, she became a cheerful, friendly maternal figure to her young customers as well as the face of The Varsity and was even featured on in 2017.

“I teach some of the students to call me Yia Yia,” she told Today. “In Greek, that means grandma.”

Scott Weiner, owner of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York, is a Syracuse alum and told Today that The Varsity “was always the go-to stalwart pizzeria on campus.” He described the fare as “no-frills and totally homestyle—a universe away from today’s fancy pies. It was the perfect comfort food.”

The menu includes slices and 16” whole pies stripped down to the simplest ingredients. Each pizza’s name tells you what’s on it, such as the Spinach Feta (feta, mozzarella, spinach and garlic) the Garlic Broccoli (garlic, mozz and broccoli) and the CBR (chicken, bacon and ranch).

Once Syracuse students have eaten there, they keep coming back long after they’ve graduated, prompting The Varsity to ship its pizza to other states—as far away as California and Florida—where hungry alumni still hanker for it. And when those alums return for a big game, The Varsity is one of their first stops. “I see people coming back from 45 years ago,” Darmoyslis told Today. “And when they see me—you’ve got to see their faces [marveling] that I’m still here.”

At 77, Darmoyslis still exudes fun-loving energy in the kitchen, briskly stretching out dough in a pan at the makeline and chatting away. She works five or six days a week. “I can make 100 pizzas in one hour,” she told “I used to do 150.” She chuckled to herself. “Not anymore.”

“I cut the hours, but I’m still gonna go on,” she added. “I love it. I just love being here.”

Featured, Pizzerias