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The unsolved mystery of how Mario & Salvo’s Pizzeria became the designated post-game meal for Syracuse basketball

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Local pizzeria Mario & Salvo’s provides the post-game meal for the Syracuse men’s basketball team. Nobody knows how it started.

Buddy Boeheim sits in the Syracuse locker room with his preferred Mario & Salvo’s pizza: buffalo chicken.

Nobody is exactly sure how Mario & Salvo’s Pizzeria became the designated post-game meal provider for the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team. The local pizzeria has been a mainstay in the Central New York community for 30 years, but no one can seem to explain how it became the go-to for the players after every Syracuse home game. Chalk this one up as an unsolved mystery.

Some theorize that it all started with former Syracuse forward Marek Dolezaj, who famously ate full pizza pies following basketball games.

“I just know since I’ve been here it’s been something. He [Dolezaj] loved it. I’m pretty sure he had something to do with it.” Jesse Edwards said.

Others aren’t quite sure it was Dolezaj’s doing.

“I’m sure Marek loved it. I don’t think he started it though,” Girard said.

Not even Gus DiMarco, co-owner of Mario and Salvo’s, knows how this whole thing started. He suggests that it had to be either Dolezaj, who he described as a ‘regular,’ or Buddy Boeheim.

“I really can’t pinpoint who started it. I would say him [Dolezaj] or Buddy for sure. I don’t know who has the final say. We just started getting orders and we said, ‘Sure, we’ll do it. No problem,’” DiMarco says.

All we know for sure is that the orders from Mario & Salvo’s started last year. Beset by Covid-19, players couldn’t go out for food and instead needed food delivered to them. It eventually proved to be a decision that had staying power. On away trips Syracuse usually orders from Chik-fil-A. But now after every home game each player, manager and coach has their own pizza waiting for them in the locker room after games.

Incoming players didn’t ask questions. When Jimmy Boeheim was informed of post-game pizza from Marios, all he said was, “Sign me up!”

Cole Swider didn’t side-eye the decision either. Why would he? At Villanova they would have food provided after every game, but only sometimes was it pizza.

“I just walked into it, you know what I mean? I think they’re just trying to reward us after a long game usually, just give us some pizza. We always eat pretty healthy before games and all of our post-practice meals are healthy so I think after the games they’re trying to reward us, hopefully after a win most of the time,” Swider said.

Mario & Salvo’s has been a staple in the Syracuse community since 1992. Gus and Mario DiMarco own the pizzeria now as Salvo retired. The pizzeria typically makes 30-32 pies per Syracuse home game. If there’s a 7 p.m. tip, Mario and Salvo’s delivers pizzas to the Carrier Dome by 8:45 p.m. to ensure freshness.

Names are put on each pizza box, which all contain medium personal pizzas. Once the pizzas are dropped off, Syracuse managers secure the delivery on their pizza cart, wheel it into the locker room and place pizza boxes at designated lockers.

Every order is important, but extra attention is paid on the Syracuse team’s orders. Still, DiMarco emphasizes that every pizza matters.

“You never know who’s having our pizza for the first time,” He says.

Buddy Boeheim grew up with the pizzeria, which is just a short drive from Fayetteville. He appreciates the support and he’s always loved the pizza.

“We’ve known him since he was a little kid,” DiMarco says. “So it’s great to see him become what he’s become. It’s really awesome. Obviously it’s nice that he speaks well of us and we definitely speak well of him. Jim’s been coming in here forever too.”

It’s not the first time a Syracuse or Jamesville-DeWitt player has taken to the pizzeria, either.

“Leo Rautins back in the day used to come in here all the time,” DiMarco revealed. “Andy Rautins is one of our biggest fans also.”

Villanova v Syracuse
Former Syracuse star Andy Rautins’ favorite pizza in CNY is Mario & Salvo’s
Photo by Marc Squire/Getty Images

As for the pizza orders, Buddy usually goes with buffalo chicken with ranch or blue cheese. Edwards matches with buffalo chicken. Girard elects for a different topping.

“I’m an Italian guy,” Girard said. “So I’m either sausage or pepperoni.”

Benny Williams used to get buffalo chicken, now he gets sausage or pepperoni like Girard. How about Jimmy?

“Jimmy’s might just be cheese because he’s really picky and he only eats cereal and pizza,” Girard jokes.

Sometimes Jimmy gets buffalo chicken like his brother and Edwards, but he confirms that usually his order is, in fact, cheese. But — as is often the case with Jimmy — there’s a thought process behind the decision-making.

“We make trades because I don’t want a whole cheese or a whole buffalo chicken,” Jimmy elaborated. “So I make some trades with the guys. I get a little bit of each. A lot of guys get buffalo chicken.”

Because of his unique order, he can’t seem to fend off one character in particular.

“I’m always getting one less slice because my dad’s reaching in,” Jimmy continued.

It’s an every game occurrence. Dad identifies his target and Jimmy can only submit. He’s fine with being the prey in this case, however. Dad is entitled.

“He wants cheese and he knows I have cheese,” Jimmy said of his head coach. “It’s easy for him to pick on me. He’s gotten me enough good throughout my life so he can have a slice or two.”

Besides, Jimmy gets his fair share of pie anyhow. Even more so than his younger brother, according to his roommate.

“I live with Buddy, Jimmy and Symir [Torrence],” Girard divulged. “This isn’t a lie or an over exaggeration. I see Jimmy eat pizza every single day. I see Buddy eat pizza every other day. I’m not kidding when I say it, Jimmy’s main courses consist of pizza and cereal. Buddy’s is strictly pizza.”

Jimmy came into the season taking on a starting role at forward. He’s played center sparingly too. Maybe he’s replacing Dolezaj in more ways than one.

“I know Marek loves his pizza,” Jimmy said. “I’m sure he’s missing the slices over here. He keeps asking us to send him a box or two. I don’t know how good it’d be by the time it got over there.”

“He loves pizza,” Buddy added. “You know Marek, he was always looking for other slices. Man I miss that guy. Shoutout Marek.”

At the end of the double-overtime game against Indiana, Syracuse had pizzas waiting for them in the locker room. The pies were delivered at 8:45 p.m. and the extra basketball delayed the post-game meal.

“The pizza sat around for a little bit! At least it was a winning note so the pizza went down easier,” DiMarco said.

All in all, Mario & Salvo’s is happy to serve the hometown team. How it happened or why it happened matters not.

“We’re proud to serve the Orange,” DiMarco says. “Let’s go Orange. We love Buddy and the gang and hopefully they start getting some Ws.”

Maybe the team can string together some Ws at home, but either way the post-game pizza will remain. Still, nobody can quite muscle down a full pie the way Dolezaj once did.

“I get close pretty much and I know some of the other guys do too. But yeah, you can put it in the fridge and leave some for later,” Edwards said.

Whether or not Dolezaj had something to do with the pizza origins will remain a mystery for now. Like Edwards’ morning pizza, this evaluation remains a cold case.

For Syracuse basketball stories and updates, follow @JamesSzuba and @NunesMagician