(IT’S NOT RAMPS!)
West Virginia’s state food may be simple, but its story sure isn’t.
Pepperoni rolls are elegantly simple, but uniquely West Virginian: country roll dough filled with sticks or slices of pepperoni. The treat has deep roots in the coal industry (much like our state itself.)
You can trace it back to North-Central West Virginia, when Italian immigrants came to work in the coal mines. Miners would work long hours, and they needed a filling, simple lunch they could take with them into the mines.
The first pepperoni rolls were probably created by miners’ wives, but they were first commercially produced around 1927. When Giuseppe Argiro, who emigrated from Calabria, Italy, to work in a Clarksburg-area coal mine, opened a bakery in Fairmont, he remembered his coal miner friends would eat a stick of salami or pepperoni in one hand and a piece of bread in the other.
So he had an idea: why not combine the 2?
What he created was the pepperoni roll, a portable, shelf-stable snack that allowed miners to eat with one hand, drink water with the other, then continue back to work quickly. He experimented with his new snack— trying different bread dough recipes, various kinds of pepperoni and changing up the proportions.
The pepperoni roll was a hit. It sold by the dozen at the bakery for about 45 cents each. Other bakeries followed Giuseppe’s lead. Tomaro’s Bakery, the oldest Italian bakery in the state and just a few miles away in Clarksburg, developed their version of the pepperoni roll around the same time. A handful of others followed in line, which helped cement the pepperoni roll in West Virginia’s food culture.
Giuseppe’s original bakery, Country Club Bakery, is still in operation today, still baking up its staple pepperoni roll recipe fresh every day. You can try the original, and also explore all the flavorful variations right there in the snack’s homeland.
The original pepperoni roll was just a few sticks of spicy pepperoni in a fluffy roll, but other bakeries put their own spin on it, like sliced or even ground pepperoni. Some added cheese, sauce or peppers. You can even get mini versions!
North-Central West Virginia bakeries like D’Annunzio’s Italian Bread, Abruzzino’s Italian Bakery, Chico Bakery (Home of Julia’s Pepperoni Rolls), Colasessano’s World Famous Pizza & Pepperoni Buns, Rogers and Mazza’s Italian Bakery (Marty’s), and Home Industry Bakery all have their own unique takes on the treat.
Even donut shops like The Donut Shop in Buckhannon and JR’s Donut Castle in Parkersburg have added the savory snack to their sweet lineup.
But you can find pepperoni rolls almost anywhere throughout the state. For quick snacks, they’re in nearly every convenience store and gas station.
However you choose to eat your pepperoni roll, you’ve gotta try this unique Mountain State treat next time you’re exploring West Virginia.