Classic Italian Cuisine in Appalachia

large plate of lasagna with cheese melted on top

Pizza, pasta, and pepperoni rolls: Marion County is a surprising crossroads of Italian cuisine and culture. In the early 1900s, our area was a hub for coal mining, leading thousands of Italian immigrants, and their culinary traditions, to Marion County. Many of these classic dishes were popularized with an added Appalachian flare throughout the years, and they can still be enjoyed at local restaurants today. Here are a few favorites to try if you’re craving a taste of Italy in Appalachia.plate of spaghetti and salad

Muriel’s Italian Kitchen 

A beloved eatery with family traditions at its core, Muriale’s Italian Kitchen has been crafting authentic Italian meals for Marion County locals and visitors since 1969. Voted Best Italian Restaurant in 2020 Best of West Virginia by the readers of WV Living Magazine, Muriale’s menu features Southern Italian-inspired recipes that have been passed down over many generations. Try favorites like Aunt Mary’s Meat Lasagna and Papa Frankie’s Asparagus Salad. From linguini with red clam sauce to spicy sausage rigatoni, many of the pasta dishes are extravagant. Yet, one of the restaurant’s claims to fame is the simple spaghetti and meatballs, which was named one of the best pasta dishes in the country by Food Network. Of course, the best way to end a meal at Muriale’s is with a handmade cannoli! 

plate with square pizza covered in cheese and a pepperoni bun

Colasessano’s 

Stop by Colasessano’s for world-famous pizza! Another local spot, Colasessano’s, was first established by Filippo and Filomena Colassessano in 1950 and now has two locations in Fairmont — Pennsylvania Avenue and Middletown Circle. The restaurant is known for its unique spin on popular entrees like pizzas and pepperoni buns. Colasessano’s signature pizza has a thick and fluffy crust and is covered with tangy sauce and provolone cheese. A variety of toppings can be added to the pizzas, but it’s highly recommended to add the locally-made sweet peppers that have been cooked down in a special tomato sauce. Over the restaurant’s 60 years of business in Fairmont, the menu has expanded to include sandwiches, soups, salads, and pasta dishes. Check out the exclusive Chef’s Menu for specialties like stuffed banana peppers and roasted red pepper tortellini. Save room for Colasessano’s homemade gelato, a refreshing Italian ice cream treat! 

deli sandwich with stuffed olive on side

Pick Your Pie – Mama di Roma*, Big Momma Pizzeria, Cantoni’s Pizza, Mario’s Restaurant

Sample some of the best Italian cuisines on a tour through Marion County. Mama di Roma’s hand-tossed and stone-baked New York-style pizzas are a crowd-pleasing pick! Choose from their gourmet list of pies, from Mama’s House Special (Pepperoni, sausage, mozzarella, mushrooms, onions, olives, garlic, and green peppers) to BBQ Chicken Pizza. Bring your appetite when you visit Big Momma Pizzeria. Try the namesake featured item, Big Momma Pizza, a deep-dish 16-slice pizza cut in a square the size of the table! Don’t let size deter you, though; the pizzeria also serves a Little Momma (8 slices) and Mini Momma pizza (4 slices). Taste is everything at Cantoni’s Pizza in Fairmont. With dough made fresh daily and 60-year-old family recipes, Cantoni’s specialty Sicilian pizzas won’t disappoint. Switch up your pie cravings at Mario’s Restaurant with their popular Breakfast Pizza (ham, sausage, green peppers, onions, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, and garlic sauce). The eatery also serves New York-style slices, stuffed pizza, and Sicilian pizza specials. 

Hermosilla’s Deli Market

If you have gotten your fill of pizza, head over to Hermosilla’s Deli Market in Fairmont. The Hermosilla family has been bringing the freshest and highest-quality food products to Marion County since the 1920s. This Italian delicatessen offers meats and cheeses, along with an olive and salad bar and a wide variety of jarred goods. Try out one of their signature sandwiches or build your own with various meat, cheese, and toppings. Italian meat and antipasto trays are available to purchase and are great for parties, picnics, and get-togethers. And what’s a meal without dessert? Grab a house-made cannoli or biscotti for the road! 

For a real taste of Italy in Appalachia, plan a trip around the Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival with its Festival Cucina (cooking school) or the West Virginia Three Rivers Festival. featuring the World Pepperoni Roll Eating Championship.

What’s your favorite Italian dish? 

 

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